Coneygree and Nico de Boinville in a Lambourn schooling session
PICTURE: Steve Nash
By James Burn 12:40PM 21 SEP 2016
THERE is no reason Gold Cup hero Coneygree cannot return to the heights he scaled when he became the first novice for 41 years to win Cheltenham’s showpiece in 2015, his big-race rider Nico de Boinville said on Tuesday.
De Boinville, who also rides star two-mile chaser Sprinter Sacre, was speaking after he had put the strapping Coneygree through his paces on the schooling grounds in Upper Lambourn.
A general 12-1 shot for the Timico-backed Gold Cup that he was unable to defend through injury last season, the Mark Bradstock-trained nine-year-old is pencilled in for his first start for more than a year in Haydock’s Betfair Chase on November 19. The bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby will also be considered if conditions are not too quick.
De Boinville said: “He schooled last Friday and did again [on Monday] morning, and seems to like it up there.
“He feels in great nick so I’ve got no complaints there. He feels like he did during that fantastic season. We can tell his demeanour by the way he schools and he seems to be schooling very well at the moment, so fingers crossed it’s all systems go.”
Thistlecrack ‘still has it to prove’
Doubts over the fitness of last term’s Gold Cup winner Don Cossack mean Vautour and Thistlecrack are vying for favouritism, but De Boinville added: “I’d say Coneygree would be in the Gold Cup mix -why not? He’s a defending winner so he’d deserve his place there. We’ve yet to see Thistlecrack over fences so I’m not sure we can talk about him in that calibre yet just.”
Of Sprinter Sacre, who looked a picture when paraded at Nicky Henderson’s owners’ day on Sunday, the rider said: “He seems his usual bubbly self and loves coming out for his work.”