CONNECTIONS of Coneygree are adamant he will “make a full recovery” after the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was forced on to the sidelines this season.

The eight-year-old gelding, trained by Mark Bradstock at Letcombe Bassett, near Wantage, is suffering with hock issues and will not defend his crown at the Cheltenham Festival next March.

“He’s still being assessed in Newmarket, but we’ve decided it’s prudent not to try to get him ready this season,” said Sara Bradstock, wife and assistant to the Oxfordshire handler.

“He has a carefully planned rehabilitation and everyone believes he’ll make a full recovery for next season.”

Somersby is likely to turn out for the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on Sunday.

After having chased home a resurgent Sprinter Sacre in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on his seasonal reappearance last month, West Ilsley trainer Mick Channon’s veteran ran another solid race when fourth in the Tingle Creek at Sandown.

He could now clash with Sprinter Sacre and Tingle Creek hero Sire De Grugy at Kempton before being put away until the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, a race in which he has finished second for the last two years.

Channon was in philosophical mood after seeing his charge, The Blue Bomber, demoted from first place in the Lingfield photo-finish fiasco.

The judge originally called the three-year-old the winner by a nose of a two-mile bumper only to reverse the placings five days later, awarding the race to Quarenta, after being asked to reconsider his decision by the British Horseracing Authority.

Channon said: “I still think our horse won on the nod, but the judge is adamant the other horse won, so that’s that.”

Meanwhile, Arzal, the leading light of Harry Whittington’s Sparsholt yard, near Wantage, is on course for the Grade 2 Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Sunday.

The five-year-old, an impressive winner at Newbury last month, could face the smart pair Ar Mad and Vaniteux.

Chipping Norton trainer Charlie Longsdon praised jockey Graham Watters after he rode his first winner for the yard with a thrilling short-head success on Masterplan at Ascot.

Watters, who was previously attached to Lucinda Russell’s Arlary stables in Scotland, joined Longsdon three weeks ago.

Longsdon said: “He gave him a lovely ride. I had been looking for an experienced conditional and he was worth every ounce of his 3lb claim.”