Coneygree back on target for the Ladbrokes Trophy after Newbury schooling session
Sara Bradstock, assistant trainer to her husband Mark, talked enthusiastically about Coneygree's schooling at Newbury's gallops' morning ahead of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival (December 1 & 2).
This followed Congeygree, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015, being pulled up on his first start of the season at Wetherby on November 4 with an over-reach.
An over-reach is when a horse's faulty gait causes the hind feet to strike the back of the front feet or legs.
The lightly-raced 10-year-old chaser has top-weight of 11st 12lb in the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday, December 2, and is an intended runner - priced at 16/1 by the sponsor. He was one of fourteen horses at Newbury's schooling session on Tuesday (November 21).
Sarah Bradstock described Coneygree as a 'very fragile' horse and explained: "We needed to come to the course today to check that Coneygree wanted to go and do it and he did. He took off out of David Bass's hands at the second and measured the third brilliantly. We are delighted."
"The over-reach has healed and all seems well with it after the schooling session, which is very good. He is pretty much going to run in the Ladbrokes Trophy - anything can happen with him! That is the plan, we have always said that the Ladbrokes Trophy would suit him."
"His fitness is the worry. We would have been much happier if he had a race. There is not much we can do about that now. If the ground went heavy, Coneygree would not run and we can run Flintham (who also schooled at Newbury under daughter Lily Bradstock) off 10st. He is in good form. I don't think we would run them both."
David Bass was riding Coneygree for the first time and described his jumping as 'awesome'. He was, said Mark Bradstock, "...over the moon and wanted to round again." The Bradstocks won what was then the Hennessy Gold Cup with Coneygree's half-brother Carruthers in 2011.
American, the 7/1 second favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy, also schooled over three fences down the back straight at Newbury today, with his big-race jockey Noel Fehily in the saddle.
The progressive seven-year-old chaser, unbeaten in three races over fences, is trained by Harry Fry in Dorset. He schooled alongside Overtown Express, with Slippers Madden in the saddle. American led the way and jumped soundly.
Fry said: "Overtown Express is going to run in the two-mile Ladbrokes Handicap Chase on the same day as the Ladbrokes Trophy. That was ideal. We took American to Wincanton 10 days ago and he has come on nicely for that.
"It was perfect to jump the last three fences in the back straight today. He strode on through and Noel was very happy, so with 12 days to go it is all systems go. Rain looks forecast and the conditions out there were perfect for him today so a bit of rain should keep it much the same for December 2."
"He is a second-season chaser and they do have a good record in the Ladbrokes Trophy. We are going to find out in this hugely valuable race, thanks to Ladbrokes sponsorship. "
We could probably have done without the newspaper headline that said "Harry Fry wants to make American great again at Newbury"!
Champion trainer Nicky Henderson worked three hurdlers including Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D'Air, who is being prepared for the G1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on December 2, was joined by Divin Bere and Charli Parcs.
Henderson gave an update on his Ladbrokes Trophy candidates Whisper and Vyta Du Roc. It was he said 'our big local race - good to be part of it - even better to win it': "Newbury means a lot to me. It has been my local track since the first time I ever went racing. I got caught here escaping from school! Newbury is my home town and family. The Ladbrokes Trophy is Newbury's showpiece and of course we want to win it."
"Sadly, Barry Geraghty will have to go to Newcastle to ride Buveur D'Air, but I will be at Newbury."
Lambourn trainer Warren Greatrex brought four horses to Newbury today, headed by Ladbrokes Trophy hope Missed Approach (20/1): "Missed Approach is all set for the Ladbrokes Trophy. His work this morning will have put him spot on. He is a horse that doesn't do a lot at home, so needs these away days to ignite the flame."
"I took him to Wetherby a few weeks' ago and he just sulked when I put him back over hurdles. He definitely loves fences, has form around Newbury and has a lovely weight. It's all systems go for the Ladbrokes Trophy."
"For me, Newbury is the best course in the country. The best horse generally wins here and it's a big, flat, galloping track. We bring a lot of horses here to gallop and Richard Osgood and the team at Newbury are always brilliant to us."
The pre Hennessy/Ladbrokes gallop morning has always been just for the racing press. But Ladbrokes decided it should be opened up and more than a hundred Newbury members and owners joined the journalists - with ITV Racing's Luke Harvey and Richard Hoiles compering and commenting.
After walking the course earlier in the morning, Richard Osgood, Clerk of the Course at Newbury, explained the ground conditions: "The hurdle course is just on the easier side and is Good to Soft, Soft in places, while the chase course is Good to Soft.
"We are forecast a bit of rain later on this week, but not a lot, about five millimetres. We are trying to provide fresh ground and we will move rail overnight from the Friday into the Saturday so we have the best ground possible on the two days of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival."
Ladbrokes' Nicola McGready: "We're so proud to be sponsoring this race - we're passionate about it and will make something of it - make sure this meeting gets the kudos it deserves."
There is live television coverage for both days of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival. The broadcast will be on ITV4 on Friday, December 1 and ITV on Saturday, December 2, when The Opening Show is also hosted from Newbury, while Racing UK shows all races from the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.