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Neptune can return to claim Gold -- Hales

Owner John Hales urged punters not to discount Neptune Collonges in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury tomorrow.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old makes a protracted return after having been sidelined since last year's Gold Cup, in which he finished fourth.

Neptune Collonges suffered a tendon injury during the Cheltenham showpiece, but is reportedly fit enough to do himself justice in Berkshire.

Hales said: "I spoke to Paul on Wednesday and he's pleased with him.

"He appears to have not suffered any effects from his tendon injury and schooled really well on Wednesday.

"I'm always mindful of the bounce theory, so we are probably better off going for a big prize straight away, rather than giving him a prep run.

"He's as enthusiastic as ever and, if he's back to somewhere near his best, I'll certainly be having a bet."

Neptune Collonges has been a fine servant for the Ditcheat operation, especially in Ireland where he has twice won the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup, in addition to taking last year's Hennessy at Leopardstown.

Although wary about a 624-day absence, Hales feels the striking grey still possesses the requisite quality to unnerve stablemate Denman.

He added: "If he's as good as he was, Denman cannot possibly give him that weight and win.

"He went out a week ago with Denman and Big Buck's and, although he tired inside the last 100 yards, Paul was pleased with him. I'd like to look at Ireland again after the Hennessy, perhaps the Lexus over Christmas.

"We'd also be delighted to try and win the Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown again."