Coneygree secured a fairytale victory for connections with a fantastic display of jumping to defy the statistics and become the first novice in 41 years to win the Betfred Gold Cup.
The eight-year old vindicated trainer Mark Bradstock’s decision to opt for a shot at the blue riband instead of tackling the RSA chase earlier in the week, to become the first novice since Captain Christy in 1974 to capture the prize. After being challenged for the lead on the run to the first by eventual third Road To Riches and last year’s runner-up On His Own, the 7-1 shot soon had matters his own way up front by the time they reached the second fence.
From there, Nico de Boinville settled Coneygree, who was bred by the late Lord Oaksey, father of Bradstock’s wife, Sara, into a steady rhythm to ensure the race would be a thorough test of stamina.
Attacking each fence with great enthusiasm, the pair soon had several of their rivals in trouble, including last year’s hero Lord Windermere, who was toiling at the back of the field after the first full circuit.
As the race heated up, Coneygree’s relentless gallop out in front saw the runners begin to get strung out streaming down the hill for the second occasion, with a small breakaway group the ones able to keep tabs on the pacesetter.
On the run to the penultimate fence the long-time leader still held a two-length advantage with Djakadam, Holywell and Road To Riches in behind harbouring chances.
As Holywell’s run petered out before the last, Road To Riches and Djakadam were left as the final threats to Coneygree.
Although producing another solid jump at the last, Coneygree looked to tire up the run-in as he drifted right, opening the door for the pursuing pair, but after getting back in a straight line he was not to be denied, holding off the late thrust of Djakadam by a length and a half.
Road To Riches was a further two lengths away in third.
Bradstock said: “It is a numb feeling and I don’t believe it has happened. We’ve done it before in smaller races and we’ll still keep doing it, but it’s fantastic to do it on the big stage.
“I can’t remember where I watched it as I’m not very good at watching races. The decision was very tricky because the weather forecast was so up and down and obviously we were liaising very closely with Simon Claisse (clerk of the course) and walking the course. But we made the right decision.”