Coneygree can collect in Betfair Chase at Haydock
Coneygree to turn on the style in Haydock showpiece
Coneygree can get the better of Cue Card to land a fascinating renewal of the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday (15.00).
The Mark Bradstock trained nine-year-old is unbeaten in five starts over the larger obstacles and put in a stunning performance in the fourth of those when winning the 2015 running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Coneygree jumped for fun at the head of affairs in a strongly run meeting and stayed on gamely when challenged on the run-in to fend off the threat of Djakadam by 1 1/2 lengths.
In doing so he became the first novice since Captain Christy in 1974 to win chasing’s blue riband contest.
Injury then restricted Coneygree to just one run last season, when winning a minor contest at Sandown by a facile 25 lengths, and he now makes his eagerly awaited return to action after 377 days on the sidelines.
Excellent record fresh
This represents a tough task after such a lengthy absence, but Coneygree is a class act and has an excellent record when fresh.
The gelding has won his last three starts after breaks of 259, 671 and 240 days so that augurs well for his chances in this.
Coneygree is also a superbly slick jumper who likes to attack from the front and this looks the ideal track for him to put his rivals to the sword.
Cue Card out to retain crown
Cue Card landed the spoils 12 months ago having previously triumphed in 2013 and looks sure to make a bold bid to retain his crown.
The Colin Tizzard trained 10-year-old slammed Silviniaco by seven lengths in last year’s renewal and went on to taste further Grade 1 success in the King George at Kempton and Betfred Bowl at Kempton.
Those victories saw him end the season on a rating of 176, 6lb higher than Conyegree.
That suggests Cue Card is the one to beat but he put in a lack-lustre effort when third on seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and that makes him opposable in my book despite the fact that he is entitled to strip much fitter for that outing.
Conti bidding for more glory
Silviniaco Conti is also bidding for a third win in the race having won in 2012 and 2015.
Trained by the in-form Paul Nicholls, the 10-year-old has won 11 of his 24 starts over fences and they include back-to-back successes in the King George at Kempton in 2013/14.
Silviniaco Conti is undoubtedly a class act on his day, but the fact that he only managed to get his head in front just once in five starts last season suggests he may not quite be the force of old.
That view was confirmed to some extent when he finished runner-up Valseur Lido on return to action in the Grade 1 Jnwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Although far from disgraced, Silviniaco Conti was made to look very one-paced by the easy 11 length winner and a big step up is required for him to land this.
Coral’s top tip: Coneygree has a good record fresh and looks worth a wager to land a fascinating renewal of the Betfair Chase. Last year’s winner Cue Card can chase him home.