FORMER Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree’s participation in the bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday was given a boost after rain at the West Yorkshire track.
While the racecourse did not receive the downpours seen in some local areas, the three millimetres that did fall was welcomed by connections of the lightly-raced Coneygree.
“It’s very good news,” said trainer Mark Bradstock’s wife and assistant Sara. “I’ve been told all along the ground is likely to be good to soft and if that is the case, off we go. He’ll be better for the run, but this race could have been framed for him to make his comeback.”
Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson explained that while neighbouring villages saw more rain than actually fell at the track, conditions should be almost perfect for the returning stars, with Cue Card, More Of That, Definitly Red and Bristol De Mai in the mix.
“We actually had five millimetres at Tockwith where I live just down the road, but the track only got three,” said Sanderson.
“Nevertheless, while I would have liked a bit more, it was gratefully received.
“I’ve just walked it at noon and it is predominantly soft and good to soft in places.
“I can’t see it changing much to be honest.
“The forecast is settled for cold nights, heavy dews and very little wind through the day, so not particularly drying conditions.”
Though Coneygree, bred by Bradstock’s late father Lord Oaksey, remains the favourite because of his Gold Cup win in 2015, Malton trainer Brian Ellison is bullish about the prospects of his course winner Definitly Red and bookmakers reported a surge in ante-post support.
Leeds-based William Hill cut the horse’s odds from 12-1 to 13-2, with spokesman Rupert Adams saying: “Punters’ confidence in Definitly Red has slightly surprised us in what is clearly a very strong field.”
Meanwhile, trainer Anthony Honeyball expects to discover how the rest of the season will pan out for Fountains Windfall after he runs in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday.
A most impressive winner of a handicap at Aintree on Grand National day, he now has a rating that means he needs to step up in class. Previous winners of the Wetherby contest include Cole Harden in 2015, who subsequently prevailed at the Cheltenham Festival.
Honeyball has already schooled him over fences and if the seven-year-old proves short of the best over hurdles, he will go novice chasing after running in the Grade Two race.
“He definitely runs and we’ll find out what we’re doing for the rest of the season,” said Honeyball.
“He’s seven going on eight and we’ve already schooled him over fences, I think he’ll be a better chaser. But if he were to run a blinder in this, then the World Hurdle would be the dream.
“This race comes at the ideal time because if he’s not up to taking on the best we can prepare him for going chasing for the rest of November, whereas if we stay hurdling the races choose themselves – Newbury, Cheltenham in January and then March.”
Peter Niven’s tribute to Mary Reveley: Page 8.