No Sam but Bradstock looks forward to Kerry
All-Ireland final discussion often dominates the discourse at Listowel and, while that will not be the case this year, raiding trainer Mark Bradstock is looking forward to seeing how Coneygree fares in the Guinness Kerry National on September 13.
The popular Gold Cup winner of 2015 has not seen much action since, yet his Punchestown return at the Festival at the end of last season when a gallant third to Sizing John was hugely encouraging.
And his presence at top weight in the feature of the Festival at the North Kerry meet, which will play a part in whether or not some lower-rated runners partake, is sure to attract a big crowd. If he goes well, the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy will be next on his agenda.
Bradstock said: "He is in fabulous form and looks really great, I'm really chuffed. He came out of Punchestown absolutely brilliant.
"Obviously he banged himself at the second-last and that gave us a little panic as he is so fragile, but it was a brilliant run on the day. The Irish were absolutely fabulous and looked after us so incredibly well. We got beaten but the icing on the cake was that he was all good again."
Coneygree's liking for an ease is well-established and the relatively firm Punchestown terrain, Bradstock felt, did not play to his strengths.
"The ground was a bit quick for him; if the ground had been right he'd probably have picked up at the second-last as opposed to put down but he battled back again."
Conditions can get quite testing at Listowel and Bradstock is hoping it will not turn heavy but he seems intent on a first visit to the Kingdom.
"From what you hear talking to people it can get heavy very quickly and if we get anything like poor old Texas had we might be swimming as well but because he's so fragile and there are so few opportunities over here we are very keen.
"He'll likely go to the Hennessy (now the Ladbrokes Trophy) after that. He certainly has not lost any ability and he does go a lick, that's the great thing about him, deceptively so. He can jump so slick and is very fast away from his fences."
Gigginstown is weighing up plans for the race, which it won last year, conscious of the role Coneygree will play in the weights carried by others.
Meanwhile, Churchill has been heavily supported for the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday week.
He has been backed from 6/4 to even-money with William Hill to get back on the winning trail, with Ulysses among those ruled out.
Flat fans can look forward to TG4 screening a 30-minute preview of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend tomorrow at 5.55, with a repeat on Monday at 7.30pm.