Coneygree absence irrelevant to King’s challenge

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ALAN King insists the fact Coneygree is no longer a contender for the William Hill King George VI Chase will not affect his thinking over whether Hennessy Gold Cup winner Smad Place takes his chance in the Christmas highlight.

The in-form Barbury Castle handler has still not decided whether to run the grey, who put up a scintillating display at Newbury, in next Saturday’s mid-season championship chase.

Initially King was keen on swerving Kempton on Boxing Day in favour of waiting for the Cotswold Chase at the end of January at Cheltenham, but nothing is set in stone yet.

“We don’t know what we will be doing yet. He will work tomorrow, then will school on Monday and we will then make a decision,” said King.

“It is not that I am trying to be clever, I just want to wait and see if he is really happy.

“Coneygree coming out of the race has not come into it. If he is in top order then we may take our chance.

“He has been in good order since the Hennessy and he worked well on Wednesday. We are not in any rush with him and the owners are very relaxed about the decision we make.”

Meanwhile, the prognosis on Coneygree appears to be more upbeat after Mark Bradstock’s stable star suffered a potentially season-ending injury.

The champion, the first novice to win the Gold Cup in more than 40 years, is still being assessed by vets.

However Sara Bradstock, the Oxfordshire trainer’s wife and assistant, said: “The great thing is he’s going to be okay. He’s being looked after by the best people and we’ll put a plan in place to try and help him win another Gold Cup.

“They’re doing all sorts of things with him.

“I hope to have him home by Christmas Day, so by the end of the weekend I should be able to put a timescale on how long he’ll be out for.

“The most important news is the prognosis is good.”