Coneygree’s shock absence from the 32Red King George VI Chase has left the Kempton showpiece on Boxing Day in a state of flux.
Connections of Josses Hill said they are going to supplement the Peterborough Chase winner at the confirmation stage, while the Thistlecrack team are still giving the Christmas feature serious consideration.
Coneygree was ruled out after failing to sparkle in a gallop on Saturday.
Connections of the Mark Bradstock-trained gelding were not happy with his work and feel the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero is below par.
“He didn’t work well on Saturday and he’s just not right,” said Bradstock’s wife and assistant, Sara.
“I just know he’s not himself. We’re not taking any risks.
“He is fragile and we want him to be completely on song when he runs.
“We’ll obviously take veterinary advice and then I’m sure the horse will tell us when he’s right again.
“I know every breath he takes, I know every step he takes, I know exactly how he is and he’s just not feeling good.
“We’ll still hopefully on for the Gold Cup, and maybe something before that.”
Coneygree returned from a year off the track last month when second to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and a rematch between the two over Christmas had been greatly anticipated.
Bookmakers’ reaction was to cut last year’s winner Cue Card to a general 4-5 favourite, while his Colin Tizzard-trained stablemate Thistlecrack was given a quote of 11-8 with a run.
His participation has yet to be confirmed as last season’s champion staying hurdler is also in contention for the 32Red Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on the same card.
When asked if Coneygree’s defection will influence down which route Thistlecrack will head on Boxing Day, John Snook, who owns the horse with his wife, Heather, said: “It makes no difference whatsoever.
“I’ve heard about Coneygree, which is a shame for them.
“We do know, though, that the Bradstocks will do the best for their horse and think the world of him - just like we do with Thistlecrack.
“I’ll speak to Colin at some point, but the one thing about racing is that if you plan too far ahead, it can kick you in the teeth.
“The most important thing is to make sure the horse is sound and well and we get to Kempton on Boxing Day, one way or another.
“I’m looking forward to whichever way we go.
“I’m very lucky to have such a nice horse.”
Josses Hill would be tackling three miles for the first time after owner Alan Spence said he would be added to the field at a cost of £10,000.
The Nicky Henderson-trained eight-year-old is unbeaten this season, with a comeback success over an extended two and a half miles at Kempton in November followed up by an accomplished victory in the Grade Two Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.
Confirming the news, Henderson tweeted: “Josses Hill will be supplemented for the King George. He likes @kemptonparkrace & deserves to take his chance.”