Cheveley Park Stud director Richard Thompson is excited to see last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard make his return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.
A Grade One winner over two miles a couple of years ago, the seven-year-old successfully stepped up to three miles when lunging late to land a thrilling Savills Chase at Leopardstown last Christmas.
Connections elected to head straight to the Festival off the back of that victory and it almost paid off, with A Plus Tard finding only stablemate Minella Indo too strong in the blue riband.
With Minella Indo having suffered defeat on his seasonal debut at Down Royal three weeks ago, Thompson is aware that the other star stayer in Henry de Bromhead’s yard is likely to improve for the run.
That being said, he is anticipating a bold showing on Merseyside from A Plus Tard, who will be a first ever runner at the track for the De Bromhead team.
“It’s very exciting to be going to Haydock on Saturday. He’s in great shape, I think. He’s bouncing around and looking the part, so we’ve got to go in with confidence,” said Thompson.
“It’s obviously his first run of the season, but apart from that he’s in cracking form.
“We’re hoping for a big run, but we’ve got to recognise that he could improve for the run, of course.”
Thompson believes the fact conditions at Haydock are unseasonably dry is a positive for A Plus Tard’s chances as he bids to deny proven mud lover Bristol De Mai a fourth Betfair Chase success.
“We’ve got a bit lucky with the ground – that’s a plus, anyway,” he added.
The main reason A Plus Tard is travelling across the Irish Sea at this early stage of the campaign is the fact he prefers left-handed tracks.
Provided all goes according to plan this weekend, the son of Kapgarde looks likely to follow the same route as last season in preparation for his bid to go one better in the Cotswolds.
Thompson said: “All roads lead back to Cheltenham in March. We’ll see how Saturday goes, but he’ll probably go back to the Savills Chase again and then on to the Gold Cup.”
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