Coneygree All The Way in Neptune
1 Coneygree 8/1
He bred a wonderful horse in Hennessy Gold Cup winner Carruthers, but it is possible the late and badly-missed Lord Oaksey may have produced a brilliant one, too.
Coneygree is the name, and after he made all and quickened clear to win the Grade Two Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle there must be hope of further victories at higher levels.
A half-brother to Carruthers, having been foaled by the mare Plaid Maid, Coneygree is also in the same stable under the tutlelage of trainer Mark Bradstock and his wife Sara, Lord Oaksey's son-in-law and daughter.
Bradstock said: "Mattie [Batchelor] gave him a super ride because the ground out there is tiring and he did everything right. This horse is a very different stamp to Carruthers, who is only just 16 hands and has never been able to carry big weights, while Coneygree, touching every piece of wood, has the size to do that.
"After he won his recent hurdle race at Uttoxeter I said that anything he did over hurdles would be a bonus because he's a proper chaser in the making.
"It's a long way to go but he could be back here for The Festival and run in either the three-miler [Albert Bartlett Hurdle] or the two-miles-five-furlongs [Neptune Investment Management Hurdle]. It's lovely to have a winner at any Cheltenham meeting and so this is special - and I'm sure John [Oaksey] is looking down on us now."
Batchelor said: "If you compare Coneygree to Carruthers at the same age you would say today's winner has more class. Carruthers has guts and determination but this fellow oozes class. It was hard work out there but he made it look easy and I'm sure he will handle faster ground.
"The other jockeys said I went a strong gallop in front, but he was running in my hands and I kept trying to take a pull, and when I jumped the last he went away from them."
Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2)
BONDAGE STRAPPED BY THE GROUND
Bondage, seven-length runner-up in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, will be back for the Group One equivalent at The Festival, with the hope of quicker underfoot conditions.
"Look at him," said trainer Gordon Elliott of the Flat-bred son of Whipper, "he's only a pony. He couldn't get out of the ground, absolutely hated it. So he's run a great race, under the circumstances. We'll give him a break now and we'll be back here in March."
Third-placed According To Trev will also return for the two mile, five furlong feature, under the same sponsorship as today's race, at The Festival. "He was giving weight today and I'm delighted with him," said trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
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