Monalee is likely to miss the rest of the season through injury, leaving A Plus Tard and Minella Indo as Henry de Bromhead’s two contenders for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Beaten less than two lengths into fourth place in last season’s blue riband, the 10-year-old was third to Presenting Percy on his reappearance at Tramore in November, setting himself up for a tilt at the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
However, travel restrictions ruled him out of the Boxing Day showpiece – and while he was given the alternative of taking on dual Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo at Tramore on New Year’s Day, a setback has put all plans on hold.
“We’re not quite sure how long he’ll be out for yet, but he’s unlikely to be back this season. We’re just waiting for more information, then we’ll see,” De Bromhead told Sky Sports Racing.
“It’s very disappointing for that to happen, but hopefully we’ll get him back on track again.”
A Plus Tard leapt into the Gold Cup picture when producing a late burst to snatch victory in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.
“That was a great day. He was really good and we were really delighted he did it so well in the end,” said De Bromhead.
“We’ve entered him for the Gold Cup and the Ryanair and I’d imagine we’d be leaning towards the Gold Cup at this stage, but obviously we’ll keep our options open and confirm nearer the time.”
Minella Indo was favourite for the Savills Chase only to fall at the eighth fence. He will try to make amends in the Irish Gold Cup back at Leopardstown next month.
“He seems good now, so he’ll aim towards the Irish Gold Cup next and try to get him back with a clear round and get him going again,” said De Bromhead.
“He’s been good at home, not a bother on him.”
Notebook and Put The Kettle On were second and third respectively behind Chacun Pour Soi in the Grade One Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown.
De Bromhead reports the pair to be in good form and have the Queen Mother Champion Chase as their Cheltenham target, with Notebook heading first for the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown next month.
“I was delighted with them. They both ran really well. Notebook was great and Put The Kettle On was really good as well. Unfortunately, Chacun Pour Soi was better then them on the day” said the County Waterford trainer.
“I think Put The Kettle On is a lot better around Cheltenham. She loves that track so we’ll aim her for the Champion Chase.
“I’d say Notebook will go back for the Grade One two-mile chase at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival, then I imagine on to the Champion Chase after that.”
De Bromhead also has a wealth of talent in the hurdling division, headed by Aspire Tower and Honeysuckle.
Aspire Tower is set to go to straight to Cheltenham for the Unibet Champion Hurdle after finishing second to Sharjah in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown.
“He’s matured physically and mentally this year,” said De Bromhead.
“It was a brilliant performance in the three-year-old hurdle last Christmas and then he fell at Leopardstown in February and he just didn’t show up in the Triumph Hurdle. We gave him a good break and he’s back.
“He’s only just five now, but he’s strengthened and matured. I was delighted with his first two runs. His jumping let him down a tiny bit at Leopardstown, the third-last and the second-last, but we’ll work on that and we are aiming towards the Champion Hurdle.
“He’s got real size and scope and is a real athlete and loves jumping hurdles. He’s just clicked.
“I’d day his next target would be the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. We might enter him for the Irish Champion Hurdle, but I think he could go straight to Cheltenham.”
De Bromhead is aiming Honeysuckle at the Irish Champion Hurdle – but would not be drawn as to whether she will run in Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle or go for the Mares’ Hurdle which she won in 2020.
“We’re aiming towards the Irish Champion Hurdle with her. That’s the plan,” he said.
“She seems in great form after the Hatton’s Grace and is really well in herself. She won it last year so we’ll give it another go.
“We’ll see how we go in February and make a decision (about which race at Cheltenham) after that. We have to make sure we get there and see who else is getting there as well. We’ll take it one race at a time.
“She was a timid filly when she first came. Now she’s a complete prima donna.”