Sara Bradstock sees Cue Card as a far bigger threat to Coneygree than Thistlecrack in the 32Red King George VI Chase at Kempton.
The 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero made an excellent return from over a year on the sidelines when a clear second to the hugely impressive Cue Card in last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock.
While respectful of the threat posed by Colin Tizzard’s defending champion, Bradstock remains keen on a Boxing Day rematch and would be more than happy to take on his stable companion and last season’s all-conquering staying hurdler Thistlecrack.
The eight-year-old has won each of his three starts over fences, but Bradstock sees flaws in his jumping technique.
Speaking at a King George media day, Bradstock said: ” I’m very frightened of Cue Card, but I’m not scared at all of Thistlecrack. He jumps over fences rather than races over them.”
Bradstock, wife of trainer Mark, has been delighted with Coneygree’s progress since his return on Merseyside, but is praying for rain.
She said: “Basically he’s in great form and the plan is to run in the King George, but only if the ground was on the easy side. G ood ground can sometimes be too fast, too.
“We have worked him on good, faster ground at home and I don’t think he really enjoyed it – he’s just too fragile.
“It is a bit of a narrow band as I think the ground was probably too soft for him at Haydock. He couldn’t get into his full gear and what we really want is good to soft ground.”
Coneygree also holds an entry in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28 and if conditions are more suitable, he could yet make the trip to Ireland.
However, it is not inconceivable he could spend the busy Christmas period at home, which would give his sidelined jockey Nico de Boinville more time to get back in the saddle having been replaced by Richard Johnson on Merseyside.
“That (Lexus Chase) is still an option, but I think Ireland are in need of some rain as well,” Bradstock added.
“If the ground isn’t right he won’t run anywhere over Christmas and we might have to wait for either the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham or what used to be the AON Chase (Denman Chase) at Newbury.
“That would be annoying as you want to go for the really big ones, but the advantage would be that we would have Nico back.
“I know he’s aiming to get back for Christmas, but I don’t think he will.”
Outside the top three in the market, the picture is less clear.
Connections of the brilliant Douvan all but ruled out stepping up to three miles following his runaway comeback victory in the Hilly Way Chase at Cork on Sunday, but trainer Willie Mullins still has the option of calling on versatile mare Vroum Vroum Mag.
Valseur Lido is another interesting Irish contender, but he also has the option of the Lexus Chase two days later.
Trainer Nicky Henderson is not completely ruling out supplementing Josses Hill following his impressive display in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon earlier in the month.
He told At The Races: “He looked very good at Huntingdon and was sharp and jumped beautifully. The only thing you would say is he did beat a bunch of horses that all want three miles and he probably is a specialist two-and-a-half miler, which is a difficult place to be as we have no idea where we’re trying to go.
“I did say to Alan (Spence, owner) the other day, if he’d have been in the King George, you’d probably be going to run him.
“He’s not in it, but of course he can come into it. We haven’t sat down and thought about it because really I’m trying to see where else he can go. There’s the Ascot Chase, but that’s not until February.”