A decent novice hurdler last winter and fourth in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Willie Mullins’s French recruit burst onto the Flat staying scene when romping to victory at York’s Ebor meeting in August, booking his ticket to Australia in the process.
He failed by only half-a-length to catch 100-1 shot Prince Of Penzance and the history-making Michelle Payne in ‘the race that stops a nation’ at Flemington, and Mullins believes he has every chance of going one better in 2016.
The Irish champion trainer said: “Looking at him, I wouldn’t have any fears about coming back on firm ground.
“We’re invited to Japan and we’re invited to Hong Kong. I’ll have a chat to see what the plan is, but our main plan for next season would be Ascot Gold Cup-Melbourne Cup, with one or two races in between.
“You must remember this guy was training to go jumping all winter and it was an afterthought to come Flat racing.”
Payne became the first woman in the long history of the Melbourne Cup to ride the winner and is set to grace Ascot next year.
The course’s head of international racing, Nick Smith, did not waste any time in approaching the 30-year-old in an attempt to lure her to the Shergar Cup fixture in Berkshire next summer, and is thrilled she has agreed to be part of the ‘Girls’ team’.
He said: “I had a chat with Michelle and she was absolutely charming and said she really wanted to come over and have an invite.
“At the end of the day, for a woman to win the Melbourne Cup is is one of the most important things ever to happen in racing.
“She is a really good jockey and has shown such enthusiasm to ride in our event, which is great to see. I’m sure she will be a fantastic addition to the ‘Girls’ team’ next year.”
Payne will line up alongside Canadian rider Emma-Jayne Wilson in the Shergar Cup next August, with the third member of the team to be confirmed in due course.
Switching codes and Sara Bradstock is not ruling out supplementing Coneygree for the King George VI Chase after human error led to to the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero missing the first entry stage for the Boxing Day highlight.
While dual winner Silviniaco Conti and Irish superstars Vautour and Don Cossack all featured among a stellar cast when entries for the Kempton showpiece were revealed, Coneygree was not on the list and Bradstock, wife and assistant to trainer Mark, has revealed his omission was down to a lack of computer skills.
Bradstock said: “I’m afraid we can’t blame anyone but ourselves.
“Mark was doing the computer entries last week and I think he must have pushed the wrong button. As I keep telling people, we’re good with horses, but not so good at IT!”
Coneygree is due to reappear in the 188Bet Future Stars Chase at Sandown on Sunday before a likely tilt at Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday, November 28.
Should all go well on both starts, adding the eight-year-old to the King George field will be discussed, but Bradstock hinted conditions would need to be testing.
“As always we’ll do what’s best by the horse. He’ll run on Sunday and then, all going well, he’ll go to the Hennessy and then if we felt supplementing for the King George was the right thing to do, we’ll do it,” she said.
“It might not matter as if we’re going to take on horses like Vautour, I think we’d want to do it when there is more of an emphasis on stamina.
“If it came up good ground at Kempton, we probably wouldn’t go anyway, but if it’s heavy and we thought it was right we could still do it.
“On the other hand, we might look at the Lexus (Leopardstown, December 28) instead, or we might even be better giving him more time and looking at the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham (January 30), so there are alternatives.”