Coneygree Scoots Into Cheltenham Festival Reckoning

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Author: Will Smith

Tags: Cheltenham Festival 2016

Published: 08:42 17/12/2012

Ultra-impressive Coneygree would be under half his 12/1 price for Cheltenham's Albert Bartlett Hurdle if trained by Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson or Willie Mullins

There is now an ante-post market available for every race at the 2013 Cheltenham festival, and picking your way through any value right now can be fraught with difficulty.

With most of the championship races, it is not always possible to pinpoint a horse’s exact target, and a lot of the time you’ll be second guessing as not even connections of the horse will know. Then there is the risk of injury. While having a bet in a festival handicap should not even be attempted until at least the five-day declaration stage if not the morning of the race. Such is the bookies’ push for business that bigger prices are often available then anyhow.

Given that most if not all of the horses in question have been running on rain-sodden ground, only complicates matters further as come March it is likely to be better. However, given the relative height of the water table, and therefore the heaviest ground many have known at Cheltenham for the last two meetings, then I wouldn’t bet against ground on the soft side come March.

In offering 12/1 about Coneygree for the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle, Ladbrokes are clearly taking the view that his recent wins have been more down to an affinity for the heavy ground than any requisite class. I disagree and suggest that 12/1 is an absolutely brilliant price about a horse that has been ultra-impressive. If he was trained by Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson or Willie Mullins then he would be under half the price. He is generally 7/1 elsewhere.

Coneygree is a half-brother to the same stable’s admirable chaser Carruthers. Trainer Mark Bradstock and jockey Mattie Batchelor are in no way secretive about the regard in which they hold Coneygree. Carruthers was similarly impressive in winning his novice hurdles before disappointing when favourite for the very same race in 2008. However, none of Carruthers’ novice runs were at Cheltenham and he has always been best on flat tracks. Conversely, Coneygree has fairly scooted up the hill twice with an enthusiasm which will hold him in good stead come March.

Good ground won’t be a problem and given the speed at which Coneygree raced for much of the race at the weekend, it may even help him. Carruthers ran plenty of good races on good ground, including that memorable Hennessy win last year.

I am loathe to recommend a bet for the festival before Christmas but this just looks like too good an opportunity to miss. For the traders out there, you can always lay off nearer March for an ensured profit, as he will be much lower in price.

Recommendation: Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle – Coneygree 12/1 (Ladbrokes)

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