03/13/2015 1:14PM

Coneygree wins Cheltenham Gold Cup to remain unbeaten in chase races


CHELTENHAM, England – The 16-runner field was gathered at the start of Friday’s $825,000 Cheltenham Gold Cup when jockey Paddy Mullins revealed his race tactics to fellow rider Nico de Boinville.

“I’ll be going quick,” Mullins told de Boinville.

De Boinville’s response was fast.

“I’ll be going quick,” he said.

De Boinville was aboard Coneygree, an 8-year-old gelding still eligible for novice chases. At the start, Coneygree did what de Boinville said and took the lead. The gelding did not race like a novice in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 3 5/16 miles and 22 fences.

Leading throughout, Coneygree jumped elegantly throughout and brushed off a threat from Road to Riches with two fences remaining to give de Boinville and trainer Mark Bradstock their first win in Britain’s most prestigious steeplechase.

“He gave me a great spin,” de Boinville said. “He answered my every call. I wasn’t worried. It was very easy.”

Djakadam, a 6-year-old gelding trained by Willie Mullins for American owner Rich Ricchi and his wife, Susannah, finished second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths. Road to Riches, an 8-1 shot, was passed by the 10-1 Djakadam in the uphill run between the final fence and the finish and held third.

On His Own, ridden by Paddy Mullins, tracked Coneygree and finished fifth. Silviniaco Conti, the 3-1 favorite, was in contention through 18 fences but faded through the final half-mile to finish seventh.

Coneygree, who was timed in 6:42.50, has won 8 of 10 starts in jump races. He is unbeaten in four chase races, having won races over the larger obstacles at Newbury in November, Kempton Park in December, and at Newbury again in February.

Bradstock considered Wednesday’s RSA Chase for novices at three miles for Coneygree but opted for Friday’s tougher race, the top race of the four-day race meeting.

Coneygree races for The Max Partnership, a 10-person syndicate. The gelding was bred by the late Sir John Oaksey, who died in 2012 at 83. Oaksey was an immensely popular figure in British racing as a former champion amateur jockey and a television and print journalist. He helped to establish the Injured Jockeys Fund. His widow is part of the ownership group of Coneygree. Bradstock, 57, is married to Sara Lawrence, John Oaksey’s daughter.

** In Friday’s $180,000 Triumph Hurdle for 4-year-olds, Peace and Co (the 2-1 favorite) edged Top Notch and Hargam, giving British trainer Nicky Henderson a sweep of the first three finishers in the two-mile race.

Peace and Co, a French-bred gelding by Falco, is unbeaten in four starts over hurdles in France and Britain. He gave Henderson a sixth career win in the Triumph Hurdle and was the fourth career win in the race for jockey Barry Geraghty.