All roads could now lead to the King George VI Chase at Kempton for 2015 Gold Cup winner Coneygree after he finished third on his seasonal bow in the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.
Having failed to complete in either of his two starts last season, the Mark Bradstock-trained 11-year-old showed there is plenty of petrol left in the tank with a tremendous display under the burden of top weight.
Putting in a bold round of jumping once getting the better of an early battle for the lead with Cogry, the 12-1 shot stayed on well after being headed to take third behind Rock The Kasbah.
Sara Bradstock, assistant to her husband, said: “I’m nearly in tears. To have him back is wonderful. He did what he does best and the ground was plenty fast enough.
“He had every right to be a bit tired – look at the way he stayed on when he got tired for third.
“He could possibly go for the King George. We will see how comes out of this. He has not made it through December before without going lame.
“The overreach at Wetherby, that’s what really stopped him last season, as it was so deep. I was a bit worried with the other horse hassling him, but he just got better and better.
“He is a real proper competitor that just wants to be out there.
“I really think it was (as emotional as Gold Cup win), as we have been down and out with him. He got that overreach and that really robbed us of a year and we know he needed that wind op.
“He is an 11-year-old, but he has not got many miles on the clock.”
Working back from the Grand National is what Philip Hobbs has in mind for 9-1 winner Rock The Kasbah following his length-and-a-quarter success.
The in-form Minehead trainer said: “His jumping was fantastic, which is always a great plus here. I’m delighted with him. He was disappointing (at Chepstow), but the race has worked out really well since.
“Maybe as he got older he has just needed a run, but he was all right today.
“We will have the National in mind, as good ground suits him, and I suppose we ought to work back from that.”