O’Faolains Boy stakes Gold Cup claim as Coneygree suffers setback


Mere hours after news emerged that Gold Cup sensation Coneygree suffered an injury that puts his 2016 Festival participation in doubt, a new candidate for Cheltenham’s showpiece race entered the fray.

Mark Bradstock’s stable star suffered a damaged hock on Wednesday to further hamper his progression this season. The eight-year-old had already missed the Hennessy Gold Cup last month and will now certainly be absent for the King George VI at Kempton over Christmas.

Although the yard expects the first novice winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup for 41 years to return to racing at some point, it is unclear whether Coneygree will be able to defend his title at Prestbury Park in March.

Whether O’Faolains Boy can capitalise on the potential absence of the Old Manor Stables eight-year-old remains to be seen, but Rebecca Curtis’ 2014 RSA Chase winner made a comprehensive return to form with a 15-length win at Newbury later on Wednesday.

Having pulled up at Ascot on his return to action following a year-and-a-half out, the gelding put any doubts over his ability to bed with a clean round of jumping, defeating favourite Sausalito Sunrise convincingly in Berkshire.

The Fforest Farm handler suggested the Gold Cup as a possible future route and Ladbrokes installed her star as a 33/1 chance. However, Curtis has a number of races in mind before the Festival rolls around.

With an entry into the Welsh Grand National likely to be the next outing, Ladbrokes cut the eight-year-old from 25/1 to 16s for the Chepstow Grade 3 contest.

A return to Newbury for the Denman Chase could follow in February, before returning to the scene of Curtis’ RSA success for a crack at the Gold Cup.

Curtis has now saddled two winners, four seconds and two thirds from nine runners in the past fortnight and the sight of O’Faolains Boy running away at the line will be the most pleasing of all as the Gold Cup picture begins to widen.

Following news of Coneygree’s injury, Ladbrokes made Don Poli, Vautour, Djakadam and Don Cossack the joint favourites at 9/2.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.