To run or not to run? That is the question facing trainer Mark Bradstock regarding leading novice Coneygree’s possible participation in this season’s Betfred Gold Cup after the eight-year-old ran his more experienced rivals ragged in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury this afternoon, coming home seven lengths clear of two talented chasers in Houblon Des Obeaux and Unioniste.
Sent off the well-backed 15-8 favourite in the field of six the son of Karinga Bay, having just his third start over fences and yet unbeaten, the mount of Richard Johnson was sent to the front just like when coming home by forty lengths in the Grade 1 Feltham Novices Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and never looked in danger of defeat with Hennessy Gold Cup runner-up Houblon Des Obeaux the only one to put up any sort of challenge although the mount of Aidan Coleman could find nothing extra from the second-last.
On the day when the sport’s outstanding champion jockey Tony McCoy announced his retirement at the end of the season the great man’s supporters will be hoping AP can land another Gold Cup to add to the successes of Mr Mulligan and Synchronised in less than five weeks time but one stumbling block could come in the shape of Coneygree who is a best price 16-1 with Ladbrokes and William Hill for the championship contest and a standout 6-1 with Betway for the more realistic RSA.
While Bradstock was unwilling to commit himself as to the horse’s Festival target after the race his impressed pilot was left in no doubt regarding his mount’s ability, saying: “I was pretty sure I was going a good strong gallop, but he didn’t feel anywhere near out of his comfort zone. That’s the sign of a good horse, and his jumping for a novice was very good. Wherever he goes at Cheltenham he will have to be well respected.”