King George the preferred destination for Coneygree

A run in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day appears the most likely of two options for Coneygree should the Gold Cup winner appear over the Christmas period.

King George the preferred destination for Coneygree

The Mark Bradstock-trained eight-year-old, who was forced to miss the Hennessy after a setback, also holds an engagement in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28.

Speaking at a King George lunch yesterday afternoon, Bradstock said he would “definitely prefer to stay in England” while also adding he had received strong representation from officials in Ireland and that the Lexus was “still a possibility”.

A schooling session on Tuesday is likely to prove pivotal in deciding whether to run at Christmas or pursue other possibilities.

Bradstock said: “I don’t know yet in regards to where he will run, it would probably be a ’yes’ if we didn’t have the supplementary fee (£10,000) and you can’t get away from that.

“Obviously he has got the entry for the Lexus, if we’re serious about going for that you have to leave on the Saturday, but I’d definitely prefer to stay in England. There are still quite a few things he’s got to get over and he’s schooling tomorrow.

“We can possibly take the softer option of ignoring Christmas and going to the Cotswold Chase or the Denman, but if all is well and it certainly seems in that mould we’ll give it (Christmas) a go.

“It does depend on how he jumps when we school him tomorrow.

“Before the Hennessy his jumping was great, but not how it normally is. I think the foot problem was the initial issue, then whether the foot problem might have moved on to something a bit different and maybe he ripped something else, that may have been an issue.

“He will run his race, it’s like the Cheltenham Gold Cup, there are some pretty cool contenders in that (King George). He will run his type of race and if he does not win we’ll still move onwards and upwards.

“He is sound now and seems in very good health.”

Regarding Leopardstown and the Lexus, he added: “They have been fantastic and definitely enticed us to go to Ireland, and it’s definitely still a possibility.”

Silviniaco Conti has come out on top for the last two years, but trainer Paul Nicholls believes this year’s race presents an even stiffer test and the horse has had the added problem of suffering from a skin complaint.

Nicholls said: “He’s going the right way. We had a few problems after Haydock (Betfair Chase) – as has been well documented he has got sarcoids and he has got two in particular under his elbow and when he ran at Haydock he scraped them at some point.

“They have not been sorted and have never been sorted, but we are winning that at the moment and he’s in as good a form as could be.

“We are looking at having a gallop somewhere this week with him.

“Even if he was 100 per cent he would not have beaten Cue Card at Haydock, but he ran to a fair level and I still think there is improvement to come from him. I’ve just got to try and find that somewhere. I think this is his toughest test to date.”

Nicholls has great respect for the prospective opposition that includes a horse he used to train, Al Ferof.

He sent out the John Hales-owned grey to finish third in the last two runnings and saw him make a successful debut for his former assistant Dan Skelton in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.

“No one’s mentioned Al Ferof yet, Dan Skelton has got him right and he is probably in the mix,” said the Ditcheat trainer.“It’s a great race this year, with Cue Card and Vautour in there and if Coneygree turns up.

“He (Silviniaco Conti) loves Kempton and I’d love him to win a third one, but I think it will be a huge task for him to win it.”

Connections of Vautour admit having had this race in mind since the Willie Mullins-trained gelding won the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. The six-year-old made a successful trip over from Ireland for the Stella Artois 1965 Chase at Ascot last month, although he did not completely impress all onlookers.

“We’re happy to have got a run into him, he was pretty big in the paddock at Ascot and was a little bit lazy mid-race, but he still beat Ptit Zig, who we respect, and he was kind of running away again at the end,” said Joe Chambers, racing manager to owner Rich Ricci.

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