A Plus Tard is expected to prove “hard to beat” when he defends his crown in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge flew home to deny the reopposing pair of Kemboy and Melon in a thrilling renewal of the Grade One feature 12 months ago.
The seven-year-old went on to fill the runner-up spot behind stablemate Minella Indo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup – and is the ante-post favourite to go one better at Prestbury Park in March following his spectacular return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock last month.
Owned by Cheveley Park Stud, A Plus Tard will be a warm order to enhance his claims for the blue riband by making it three from three at Leopardstown on Tuesday.
Cheveley Park director Richard Thompson said: “He beat Chacun Pour Soi over two miles here two years ago, he won this race last season and won the Betfair Chase last month, so he’s building up a helluva CV.
“Everyone saw what he did at Haydock. I’m still recovering from that, to be honest! If he can repeat that sort of form he’s going to be hard to beat, isn’t he?
“He came with a tremendous late run to win this last year and it probably isn’t as strong a race this time around – there aren’t as many runners.
“But we’ve been involved with horses long enough to know you can never take anything for granted, especially in a steeplechase.”
Kemboy is running in the Savills Chase for the fourth year in succession after winning in 2018, finishing fourth in 2019 and being narrowly denied last year.
The nine-year-old is one of four runners for Willie Mullins along with last year’s third Melon, John Durkan runner-up Janidil and Franco De Port.
“Kemboy and Melon both ran a cracker last year and probably cost one another the race in the end, but what can you do? I could see where both jockeys were coming from,” the champion trainer told Racing TV.
“I’m questioning what I’m going to do with Melon. He’s been second in Cheltenham four years running to very good horses in very good races – how can I get him to win?
“We’ll have to do something different. I’m toying with the idea of the Stayers’ Hurdle, but I didn’t put him in any hurdles races! We’ll maybe put him in over hurdles after Christmas. There’s a big one in him somewhere.
“Janidil ran a fantastic race in the John Durkan and I think going out to three miles won’t be any harm to him. He did run in the Albert Bartlett as a novice hurdler and we said it might have been too far for him, but these horses get stronger and stamina improves with age.”
Delta Work won the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown two seasons ago and is one of two leading contenders for Gordon Elliott along with Galvin, who was last seen finishing second to Frodon at Down Royal.
The enigmatic Samcro is a third Elliott runner.
“I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be a competitive race but it’s nice to be well represented,” said the Cullentra handler.
“Delta Work will come on a lot from Down Royal (finished fourth) and he’s in good form.
“Galvin will love the ground and I though he ran a career best in Down Royal. He’s one of those horses that you love everything to do with him.
“He runs a good race every day and wants to please you the whole time, so we’re very lucky to have him.”