Connections of former Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Coneygree have ruled out a run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Sara Bradstock, assistant trainer to husband Mark, felt the nine-year-old was ‘just not feeling good’ after he failed to sparkle in a routine piece of work at home on Saturday.
With that, plans to tackle Cue Card in the Christmas showpiece have been shelved.
Last year’s King George winner Cue Card got the better of Coneygree in emphatic style last month in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, although it was the latter’s first start in more than 12 months.
That had prompted plenty speculation that Coneygree could reverse form around Kempton, a track at which he excelled in landing the Kauto Start Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day 2014.
With the news of Coneygree’s absence, Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card is now the 4/5 favourite with ComeOn! to win the three-mile showpiece for a second time.
Cue Card is also bidding to complete the second leg of the JCR Jumps Triple Crown for the second time after last month’s Haydock success.
While the latest setback for Coneygree will worry his supporters, Bradstock insists they expect their charge to be in rude health come the New Year.
“I just know he’s not himself. We’re not taking any risks. He is fragile and we want him to be completely on song when he runs,” she said.
“I know every breath he takes, I know every step he takes, I know exactly how he is and he’s just not feeling good.
“We’ll still hopefully [be] on for the Gold Cup, and maybe something before that.”
Coneygree can be backed at 13/2 with ComeOn! to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
News of his defection from the Kempton line-up has also prompted trainer Nicky Henderson to confirm that he will be supplementing Josses Hill, a 9/1 chance, into the King George field.
Winner of the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon early this month, Josses Hill is two from two over fences this season but has yet to race beyond two-and-a-half-miles.
Meanwhile connections of Thistlecrack, an 11/4 chance with ComeOn! to land the King George, have insisted Coneygree’s absence will not impact their decision on whether or not to run in the race.