Posts

A Plus Tard in top form after Haydock demolition

Henry de Bromhead reports A Plus Tard to have returned to home in rude health following his brilliant victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

Runner-up to stablemate Minella Indo in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, the seven-year-old is clear favourite to go one better in March off the back of his 22-length demolition job on Merseyside.

Next on the agenda for the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding is a defence of his crown in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

Minella Indo, meanwhile, could renew rivalry with A Plus Tard, or head for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Of his Haydock hero, De Bromhead said: “He’s great. He got home on Sunday morning and he was really good. He’s out in the field today and we’re really happy with him.

“He is certainly going to the Savills and no decision has been made on Minella Indo as yet. He’ll be entered for both that and the King George and we’ll see nearer the time what everyone wants to do.”

More immediately the County Waterford handler is looking forward to the return of his Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle, who will on Sunday bid to join Limestone Lad, Solerina and Apple’s Jade as a three-time winner of the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Honeysuckle is set to return this weekend
Honeysuckle is set to return this weekend (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Honeysuckle seems in great form,” the trainer added.

“She schooled this morning and jumped well. Rachael (Blackmore) was happy with her, so all good.”

Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On, meanwhile, is set to go back against her own sex in a mares’ chase at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day.

A dual Cheltenham Festival winner, having also won the 2020 Arkle, she is likely to have her sights lowered after finishing third when bidding for back-to-back wins in the Shloer Chase – her first defeat in five visits to the Cotswolds.

Aidan Coleman and Aidan Coleman after winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase
Aidan Coleman and Aidan Coleman after winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase (David Davies/Jockey Club)

De Bromhead said: “I thought it was a similar run to last year in the Shloer, it was just the ground was a lot softer last year, which gave her a chance to come back at them.

“She seems good and having discussed it with everyone, I’d say we’ll step her up in trip and run in the mares’ chase at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day.”

On which race she will contest at the Festival, he added: “We’ll see how it all unfolds. It’s not certain (she will defend her Champion Chase crown). She’ll probably have a few entries – obviously there’s the Mares’ Chase and there’s also the Ryanair.

“I would say she’ll be entered for all of those and we’ll see nearer the time. She seems a different lady in the spring, so we’ll see what way the ground is.”

Monday Musings: An APT Comparison?

Last March, as Rachael Blackmore urged her mount in the Cheltenham Gold Cup to close on stablemate Minella Indo and Jack Kennedy up the hill after the last fence, she would have been excused for saying: “A Plus Tard” or “see you later” in the English version, writes Tony Stafford.

The comment might have been Lostintraslation for some – the much-fancied horse of that name pulled up two from home that day – but after last weekend when both latter horses won major races, the path appears set for a march to greatness for the Henry De Bromhead seven-year-old.

Lostintranslation’s easy win in Ascot’s Chanelle Pharma Chase signalled another pointer to the revival in form of the Tizzard stable – soon by all accounts to have son Joe’s name rather than dad Colin’s above the stable entrance. That effort, though, could not compare with the Irish-trained horse’s performance in running away with the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park.

Most enjoyable for British racegoers as the Irish won this coveted Haydock autumn feature for the first time, was that A Plus Tard carries the colours of Cheveley Park Stud, the principal UK-owned breeder which every year produces top-class animals. With more than 100 mares and in excess of 110 in training every year, Flat racing is the bread and butter. Jumping is the winter release.

Under the careful management of Chris Richardson the stud has fuelled on the enthusiasm for jump racing of Patricia Thompson and her late husband David. The couple won the 1992 Grand National with last-minute buy Party Politics, trained by Nick Gaselee and ridden by Carl Llewellyn, and in recent years built up a select team of high-class jumpers in Ireland.

A class apart though is A Plus Tard and although only a seven-year-old he has just entered his fourth season as a steeplechaser, and still has only 12 races over fences (five wins, five seconds and two thirds) on his record.

Much of the talk before Saturday’s race surrounded the possibility that Bristol De Mai would equal the achievement of Kauto Star who won the Betfair four times in the first decade of the millennium with one unseated preventing an unblemished five-race record.

Bristol De Mai, trained for the last eight seasons by Nigel Twiston-Davies and, like Kauto Star, an early acquisition from France after precocious efforts over hurdles, has won three. Initially he beat in turn Gold Cup winners Cue Card and Native River. He was narrowly beaten in the race in 2019 to Lostintranslation before outstaying multiple Grade 1 winner Clan Des Obeaux last November.

As with those two multiple Betfair victors, A Plus Tard started in France. Whereas Kauto Star had already raced nine times (winning three) before his dramatic step up in form to win a four-year-old Graded hurdle at Auteuil when a 36-1 shot in late May, A Plus Tard never raced at that level. His moment came on his fifth and final start (and second win) when collecting a 40k to the winner 4yo handicap early in April 2018 there.

Like Kauto Star and Bristol De Mai before him A Plus Tard switched quickly to chasing, running as early as November of that year and finishing runner-up in a field of 13 at Gowran Park under Blackmore – the first of the 11 races in which they have combined.

Remarkably, three races on and less than four months after that initial association the now five-year-old ran away with the 20-runner Close Brothers Handicap Chase. The only horse of his age in the race, he did so giving weight and a 16-length thrashing to Grade 1 hurdle winner Tower Bridge with 18 other decent performers trailing far behind.

His next run brought defeat in third over three miles at Punchestown at the end of his busiest season with De Bromhead. He was restricted to only three races the next winter, sandwiching defeats on reappearance and when a close third behind Min in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham with a first Grade 1 triumph at Leopardstown over Christmas.

And last season was another cherry-picked campaign of just three races. Again Leopardstown provided the one win, another at Grade 1 level over Christmas but this time without Rachael who partnered instead Minella Indo, who fell before the race warmed up. Darragh O’Keeffe was the lucky man to step into her shoes. Back on A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup as chronicled at the start of the piece, second place to her stable-companion and other regular partner came as their rally up the hill was a little trop tard.

There is an uncanny symmetry about aspects of the early careers of Kauto Star and A Plus Tard. Both started in France and showed precocity. Certainly in the case of Kauto Star, he burned bright for many seasons. De Bromhead’s deliberate planning for his young improving star’s career offers hope that his will also be long-lasting

The Knockeen, County Waterford, trainer has run him sparingly and, with a horse of such talent, there is no need to go searching away beyond the top prizes. I would be surprised if he turned out more than four times, with Punchestown a possible after Cheltenham, especially if he wins the Gold Cup this time. Next will likely be the normal trip to Leopardstown for a Christmas hat-trick attempt.

Minella Indo, who comes from the parallel universe of Irish jumps talent, the point-to-point field, is the De Bromhead version of Paul Nicholls’ Denman. That great chaser was a contemporary of and in terms of merit almost exact counterpart of Kauto Star and he too came from the Irish pointing field.

Kauto Star was by 29 days the senior and in terms of their careers with Nicholls earned almost twice as much as his colleague and rival, collecting £2.2 million from 19 wins in 31 chases. Denman won 14 of 24 for £1.14 million

When Kauto Star won his first Betfair Chase as a six-year-old he was rated 173. Afterwards he even once touched as high as 190 but mostly was rated in his prime in the 180’s.

Although at seven a year older at the time of his first win in the race, A Plus Tard is rated 1lb lower at 172. It is worth reminding ourselves of the ease of his win, and on faster ground than is normal for the Betfair Chase.

Bristol De Mai and Royale Pagaille kept each other company for more than two-thirds of the race on Saturday before Royale Pagaille got the edge in that private battle, with A Plus Tard always tracking them going easily. He was sent to the front three out and, pulling away all the way home, the finishing margin of 22 lengths over Royal Pagaille could have been much greater had Rachael wished.

Remembering just how impressive Royal Pagaille (rated 163) had been in the Peter Marsh Chase over the same course and distance last January, it was salutary to see a similar disrespectful beating being handed out to him. The winner must be raised for the win although Kauto Star’s rating as he won successively his first Betfair, Tingle Creek (two miles) and the first of his five King Georges brought very little reaction from the handicapper.

There was definitely a hint of Kauto Star in the speed with which A Plus Tard disposed of his 2019 Close Brothers rivals at Cheltenham, and again as he cosied up to Royal Pagaille before asserting. This was an exceptional performance but there is still that stable-companion and last season’s Cheltenham defeat to avenge before we declare him the best of the bunch.

Rachael Blackmore also had to make a painful (at least it looked that way beforehand) choice between A Plus Tard and her 2021 Cheltenham Festival winner Bob Olinger when that horse also made his seasonal return at Gowran Park, again with Darragh O’Keeffe as the beneficiary.

Bob, the deeply-impressive unchallenged winner of last season’s Ballymore Novice Hurdle at the Festival, was appearing for the first time since and enjoyed a nice school round to defeat useful yardstick Bacardys (Willie Mullins). This was the champion trainer’s first try at assessing the likely threat to his own best novice chasers later in the season. It might have dented his optimism a bit, but he usually pulls one out of the hat!

One Saturday winner who will offer some hope of a domestic success at the Festival is the Nicky Henderson-trained but Hughie Morrison nurtured and developed grey, Buzz, who followed his Cesarewitch success with another dominant effort in the Coral (to you and me Ascot) Hurdle.

While there is an intermediate distance race for the top-class chasers (the Ryanair) at the Festival, two and a half mile hurdlers are forced to drop back to the minimum for the Champion Hurdle or stretch to three miles and a bit for the Stayers. Otherwise they can wait for Aintree which does cater for them.

I think the level Aintree circuit would be perfect to utilise Buzz’s Flat-race speed and he would be meeting horses partly used up trying either of the possible Cheltenham options. But then, who can resist the lure of Cheltenham? Certainly not, it seems, James Stafford and his Thurloe Thoroughbreds syndicate.

Buzz races for the partners but, with a portion of the proceeds of their victories going to the Royal Marsden, Buzz will always have a feel-good factor going for him.

Never mind additionally that James did casual shifts for me ages ago at The Daily Telegraph and thereafter always greets me on the country’s racecourses as “Uncle Tone”. I can think of worse forms of address – indeed I’ve received a few in my time!

- TS

A Plus Tard canters to Betfair Chase glory

A Plus Tard made a stunning return to action with a comprehensive victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

A close second to stablemate Minella Indo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, the Henry de Bromhead-trained runner was the 11-10 favourite to make a victorious reappearance on Merseyside.

Ridden with supreme confidence by Rachael Blackmore, A Plus Tard settled well off the early pace set by Bristol De Mai and Royale Pagaille and was still cantering in behind as the race really began with four to jump.

Bristol De Mai, a three-times race winner, was the first to really give way, with A Plus Tard making effortless ground to come upsides Royale Pagaille and assume control with the minimum of fuss.

Blackmore barely had to move as A Plus Tard kicked on approaching the second-last, clearing the final obstacle in style to coast home by 22 lengths from Royale Pagaille.

Chatham Street Lad and Clondaw Castle were the only other finishers, with Imperial Aura falling at the 13the fence and Bristol De Mai and Waiting Patiently both pulled up.

Coral, Betfair and Paddy Power all make A Plus Tard the 4-1 favourite to go one place better in the 2022 Gold Cup.

De Bromhead said of the Cheveley Park Stud-owned winner: “My heart was in my mouth as normal, but Rachael was brilliant and obviously A Plus Tard was brilliant as well.

“With his preference for left-handed tracks, this just seemed the obvious place to go – I was sick of getting beat in the Fortria Chase at Navan for the last couple of years over two miles!

“This is a fantastic race, it’s brilliant to win it and it’s brilliant for the Thompsons (of Cheveley Park).”

A Plus Tard created his own piece of history in victory, becoming the first Irish-trained winner of the race since its inception in 2005.

De Bromhead added: “After the 10th person told me no Irish horse had ever won it before, I started to wonder why we were here at all, but he’s got so much class.

“He’s won a Grade One over two (miles) and a couple of Grade Ones over three. He’s still only seven, so fingers crossed he’s got a long career ahead of him.

“He’s achieved a hell of a lot for a horse of his age. He’d been working really well and everyone was very happy with him.

“There’s a great crowd here and we always get a great reception.”

A Plus Tard is set to run at Leopardstown again
A Plus Tard is set to run at Leopardstown again (Niall Carson/PA)

A Plus Tard is now set to tread a familiar route to the Cheltenham Festival, with Leopardstown the next port of call.

He snatched a dramatic victory in the Savills Chase last Christmas and a title defence is uppermost in the mind of De Bromhead, who has the King George at Kempton as a likely destination for Minella Indo.

He added: “Because of his preference for left-handed tracks, the Savills Chase at Leopardstown seems to be the sensible way to go.”

Blackmore had not previously ridden around Haydock, but she enjoyed her Merseyside debut.

She said: “That was incredible – I’ll definitely like coming back to Haydock from now on!

“It was a fantastic performance. He’s such a classy horse and couldn’t have done it any better.

“He jumped fantastically and felt superb and I was happy everywhere. It’s not often races are that straightforward, but it’s very enjoyable when they are.

“You only have to look back at what he’s done. It wasn’t his day in March, but he’s proved today he’s extremely good.”

Rachael Blackmore with her Betfair Chase trophy
Rachael Blackmore with her Betfair Chase trophy (Simon Marper/PA)

Blackmore admits A Plus Tard is a personal favourite, having given her a breakthrough Festival win in the 2019 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.

“He’s very special to me as he gave me my first ever Cheltenham winner,” she added.

“He’s got gears, he stays and jumps really well. He cruises along without doing too much.

“He’s already established and is improving the whole time. He did nothing wrong in Cheltenham in March – everything went right for him and Minella Indo was a better horse on the day.

“Henry has got a massive yard of extremely talented horses and he is bang up there.”

A Plus Tard sets out on Festival path with Betfair Chase reappearance

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.

Minella Indo and A Plus Tard (right) after finishing first and second in the Gold Cup
Minella Indo and A Plus Tard (right) after finishing first and second in the Gold Cup (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“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.”

Bristol De Mai heads Betfair Chase field

Bristol De Mai faces seven rivals in his quest to earn a record-equalling fourth victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained grey has taken the Grade One prize three times – in 2017, 2018 and 2020 – and bids to equal the mighty Kauto Star, who was successful in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

There is strong opposition, including Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard, who makes his first appearance since filling the runner-up spot behind stablemate Minella Indo in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Chatham Street Lad, trained by Mick Winters, is the other Irish-trained contender.

Minella Indo and A Plus Tard (right) after last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup
Minella Indo and A Plus Tard (right) after last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Paul Nicholls, who has won the Betfair Chase on a record six occasions, saddles second-season novice Next Destination.

Waiting Patiently has not won since beating Cue Card in the 2018 Ascot Chase, but Christian Williams has been positive about his well-being ahead of his first start for the yard.

The Venetia Williams-trained Royale Pagaille won the Peter Marsh Chase by 16 lengths over the course and distance last season and returns to Merseyside this weekend.

The field is completed by Clondaw Castle (Tom George) and Imperial Aura (Kim Bailey), with Native River the only withdrawal at the 48-hour final declaration stage.

Bristol De Mai seeking to emulate Kauto Star as four-time Betfair winner

Nigel Twiston-Davies has Bristol De Mai perfectly tuned ahead of his bid for a fourth Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The grey has been a dominant force in the race for the past four seasons, scoring back to back wins in 2017 and 2018 before retaining his title last year following a second-placed finish behind Lostintranslation in 2020.

Haydock is usually Twiston-Davies’ first port of call with the hugely-popular gelding, who has kicked off his campaign in the race for the past three years and will do so again having not been seen since his Grand National run in Aintree.

The trainer reports the horse to have summered well and to be at the peak of fitness ahead of his title defence at the weekend.

Bristol De Mai taking the Betfair Chase in 2020
Bristol De Mai taking the Betfair Chase in 2020 (Mike Egerton/PA)

“He was here in the summer and he’s been very happy,” he said.

“He’s in great form, I couldn’t be happier really.

“He’s easy to get fit, that’s the beauty of him and we’re all primed and ready to go. The one year we were second was the year we really struggled, he had lameness problems and he didn’t get there quite 100 per cent.”

There have been no such setbacks this time around and Twiston-Davies is hoping the 10-year-old’s fitness will prove valuable when he takes on what looks to be a particularly competitive line-up that includes Henry de Bromhead’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard.

“It looks as hot as ever, but the one thing he always has in his favour is that he’s an easy horse to get fit. Will they all be as fit as he is?” he said.

“It’s great for the race and great for all of us, let’s hope we can beat them.”

Bristol De Mai with long-term partner Daryl Jacob
Bristol De Mai with long-term partner Daryl Jacob (Clint Hughes/PA)

Bristol De Mai has a notably solid record at Haydock, with his 2019 defeat in the Betfair Chase his only loss at the track in six runs.

“He likes to be able to boss races and it’s a very uncomplicated track, there are two long straights and easy bends – he can just get out there and do his stuff,” Twiston-Davies explained.

“There’s no races for him at Newbury or places like that but I’m sure he’d be just as good there, he was good around Wetherby. A flat track where he can really boss them seems to suit him.”

Similarly well-suited to him is his jockey Daryl Jacob, who has ridden him in all but two of his 36 career starts, only handing the reins to Twiston-Davies’ son, Sam, on one occasion and to French rider Arnaud Duchene when Bristol De Mai won at Auteuil as a three-year-old.

“One of the only other people to have ridden him is Sam, Daryl knows him like the back of his hand and they love each other,” the trainer said of the partnership.

Daryl Jacob and Bristol De Mai after one of their Betfair Chase victories
Daryl Jacob and Bristol De Mai after one of their Betfair Chase victories (Clint Hughes/PA)

For all those connected to the horse the race is the source of many happy memories, with a record-equalling fourth success in the contest set to leave Bristol De Mai tied with the great Kauto Star, winner of the Betfair Chase in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011.

“It would just be great, he’ll be remembered forever and maybe there’d be a race named after him,” Twiston-Davies said of the prospect.

“He’s really, really special. We were lucky enough to have him and The New One both going at the same time.

“They were real standard-bearers for the yard and he has been exceptional, he hasn’t quite won the Gold Cup I always wanted but he was third in one.”

The trainer also recalled when he was first shown a glimpse of Bristol De Mai’s potential as a three-year-old in the Grade One Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.

“These are special memories, probably my most special memory was his very first run for us at Chepstow, he got deep ground in the three-year-old hurdle and then we really knew we had a very, very exceptional horse and he hasn’t let us down since,” he said.

“He’s a very easy horse to train, he’s keen in how he goes about his work, he loves his work. He lives in the field every day as well and he loves that.

“He is as he looks, he’s a big show off – a happy horse.”

As well as A Plus Tard, opposition to Bristol De Mai could include Imperial Aura (Kim Bailey), Waiting Patiently (Christian Williams), Royale Pagaille (Venetia Williams), Next Destination (Paul Nicholls), Clondaw Castle (Tom George), Native River (Colin Tizzard) and Chatham Street Lad (Mick Winters).

A Plus Tard will be De Bromhead’s Haydock pioneer

A Plus Tard is on course to be Henry de Bromhead’s first Haydock runner in the Betfair Chase later this month.

The trainer is targeting the extended three-mile-one-furlong contest as a starting point for his Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up, who made a seamless transition to top-class staying races last term.

A Grade One winner over two miles and a furlong back in 2019, A Plus Tard moved back up to three miles at Christmas and duly won the Savills Chase – before then chasing home stablemate Minella Indo at Cheltenham.

De Bromhead said: “A Plus Tard is in mighty form – he worked really well the other day, and we’re aiming for the Betfair Chase.

“I ran him in the Fortria over two miles for his first run (last year), and he got beaten, but he sort of fooled me completely as he beat Chacun Pour Soi the previous year over two miles.

“Looking at the re-run of the Ryanair, it just looked like he was staying on at the end, so we all agreed to give him a go over three miles – and he was brilliant in the Savills Chase.

“There was no question about his stamina at Cheltenham. He’s an amazing horse to win a Grade One over two miles and a Grade one over three miles – there’s not many that do it. He’s brilliant and he’s still only seven, so he’s improving all the time.”

De Bromhead has never had a competitive runner at Haydock, but became acquainted with the track when the Irish-trained contenders for last season’s Grand National meeting were billeted there because of Covid restrictions.

He added: “We were there for Aintree in our bubble, and I was amazed how tight it was. I hadn’t pictured that at all, but it looks a lovely track.

“If everything goes well, I would imagine we’ll start in the Betfair, aim for the Savills – and then he went straight for the Gold Cup last year, so probably something similar.”

While A Plus Tard is set to stay in Ireland over Christmas, De Bromhead has two options for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton – in Minella Indo and second-season star Envoi Allen.

Both reappeared at Down Royal last Saturday when Minella Indo had to settle for third behind Frodon in the Champion Chase, while Envoi Allen won a Grade Two contest to put behind him a nightmare spring which saw him lose his unbeaten record when falling at the Cheltenham Festival before being pulled up at Punchestown.

De Bromhead is keen to send Minella Indo for the King George, but may swerve the contest with Envoi Allen.

He said: “I’d say Indo is highly likely. Envoi Allen, I’m not sure. He’s a second-season novice, we’ll see. It was great to get that run the other day, he looked brilliant again – he could, but we haven’t made any plans with him.

“I know Indo is maybe not your typical King George horse, but we’ll certainly weigh it up nearer the time.

“It could be the King George or the Savills – we’ll see how that goes. He’ll come on plenty for Down Royal – he was a little bit shorter than I thought he was, and he caught me out a little bit, but he still ran a cracker.”

Envoi Allen, a Grade One winner in bumper company as well as over hurdles and at novice chase level, was trying three miles for the first time when sustaining an injury at Punchestown – and De Bromhead has certainly not ruled out another try at the distance.

He said: “He seemed to love jumping and galloping at that pace last week, so I think that’s interesting with him. Obviously we want to look at three miles some time – but he’s got solid form, a very high cruising speed, he jumps quick, (so) he’s probably got a lot of attributes for two to two and a half miles.

“I haven’t discussed it with connections, so I’m not sure which way we’ll go as yet, but he’s very versatile. He’s not run (completed the course) over three miles, so you don’t know if he’ll stay, but it’s something you want to find out some time soon.”

De Bromhead not only has a plethora of talented chasers, he also houses the reigning champion hurdler Honeysuckle – who boasts a perfect record of 12 wins in as many starts.

The seven-year-old obliterated her Cheltenham rivals by six and a half lengths in the spring and will kick off her campaign in the Baroneracing.com Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, where she will be bidding to emulate the late Solerina and Apple’s Jade in winning the race for a third successive year.

“She’s great, she’s a superstar and she’s doing really well,” he said.

“She loves working up the hill here, but she loves her days away as well.

Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore were brilliant winners of the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham
Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore were brilliant winners of the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“She’ll have a few of those before the Hatton’s Grace, which is where we’ll start out again with her. It’s a tried-and-tested route – and of course, it’s all about Cheltenham in March.

“She’s a fantastic mare.”

Put The Kettle On is another distaff star for De Bromhead, having completed a massive Festival hat-trick for the trainer last season by winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The seven-year-old is unbeaten in four starts at Cheltenham. After skipping a run in last month’s PWC Champion Chase because of unsuitable ground at Gowran, Put The Kettle On will return to her spiritual home next week to make her seasonal bow.

De Bromhead said: “She’s going for the Shloer Chase. She seems in great form – she worked really well on Wednesday. Sadly we couldn’t run in the PWC at Gowran, so we go for the Shloer now, and we’re really happy with her.

“Obviously she loves Cheltenham. Whatever it is – the tightness, the undulations – she just loves it around there. Aidan (Coleman) gets a fantastic tune out of her.”

Big names on course for Betfair Chase showdown

Three-times winner Bristol De Mai and Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard are among 16 entries for this year’s Betfair Chase at Haydock on November 20.

Bristol De Mai has proved a very tough nut to crack in this contest since 2017 and is bidding to emulate Kauto Star who won the race four times.

His only defeat has come at the hands Lostintranslation in 2019, who has been entered again by Colin Tizzard.

Bristol De Mai’s last outing was in the Grand National, where he was pulled up with top-weight.

Henry de Bromhead has been targeting A Plus Tard at the Merseyside feature for a while given his preference for going left-handed.

Tizzard could also be represented by the veteran Native River while recent Carlisle scorer Fiddlerontheroof is another possible for the stable.

Nicky Henderson has a strong pair of possibles, both owned by JP McManus, in Champ and Chanty House.

Chantry House is due to run at Sandown on Sunday, but Champ has not been seen since pulling up in the Gold Cup after a fine run over two miles at Newbury.

“I think he put so much into jumping at Newbury he overdid it and by the time he got to Cheltenham he wouldn’t have jumped a hurdle that day,” Henderson told Sky Sports Racing.

“He’s had surgery done and we’re very happy with how it all feels and he’s moving great.

“The plan is to go to Haydock for the Betfair Chase, which has always been a complete disaster as far as I’m concerned – everything I’ve run in it has got beat and Bristol De Mai always wins it anyway!

“He has to go left-handed so he is a bit limited and we think the Betfair is where we’ll start.”

Imperial Aura has potential to reach the top this season
Imperial Aura has potential to reach the top this season (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Imperial Aura has been given the option by Kim Bailey and Paul Nicholls has entered Next Destination.

Other entries from Ireland include Chatham Street Lad and Escaria Ten, who was third in the National Hunt Chase.

Clondaw Castle, Lord Du Mesnil, Royale Pagaille, Sam Brown and Waiting Patiently complete the list.

A Plus Tard has been installed as 5-2 favourite by the sponsors, with Bristol De Mai next in at 7-2.

Punchestown possibility for Envoi Allen

Envoi Allen could aim to atone for his fall at Cheltenham with an outing at the Punchestown Festival.

Now with Henry de Bromhead following his switch from Gordon Elliott, Envoi Allen suffered the first defeat of his career last week in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

He was just about the only disappointment in a stellar week for owners Cheveley Park Stud, who celebrated three winners and two seconds.

“Before the Festival we thought Envoi Allen might be our winner and the others might go close, but it wasn’t to be for him. He’ll learn from that,” said the stud’s managing director Chris Richardson.

Jack Kennedy trudges back following Envoi Allen's fall
Jack Kennedy trudges back following Envoi Allen’s fall (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“Unfortunately he made his first mistake of the season at the wrong time. He was a little upset beforehand, a bit on his toes and Jack (Kennedy) was trying to get him settled.

“He’d only been in small fields up to now, and with horses around him he probably wasn’t focussed on the job in hand. Luckily both him and Jack were fine and we can look forward to many more occasions going forward.

“He’s in at Fairyhouse over Easter. As long as he’s fine, obviously travelling can take a bit out of a horse, Punchestown would probably be favourite I would suspect, but that is something the Thompsons will discuss.”

One of the most impressive displays of the week was Allaho in the Ryanair, and all options are open to him over seemingly all trips.

Allaho was spectacular in the Ryanair
Allaho was spectacular in the Ryanair (Michael Steele/PA)

“Allaho was impressive. I think for my part, two and a half miles suits him really well. Over three miles we were always wondering if he quite got home,” said Richardson.

“He’s got a great future. Whether we drop him back to two miles or stay and two and a half, he could still get three one day as well. He was spectacular to watch so we’re excited to see what he does next.

“Everything looks open to him. Richard Thompson (owner) will speak to Willie (Mullins), but the Melling Chase at Aintree is an option over two and a half miles, going left-handed, that must be a consideration, but it will all come out in the wash. It’s exciting to have a horse of that calibre and he certainly caught the imagination in every way.”

As well as Sir Gerhard in the Bumper, Quilixios carried the Cheveley colours to victory in the Triumph Hurdle.

Quilixios was an impressive winner of the Triumph Hurdle
Quilixios was an impressive winner of the Triumph Hurdle (Michael Steele/PA)

“Going into the race he was four from four and by then Rachael (Blackmore) was just full of confidence and gave him a fantastic ride. It was a stellar performance and confirmed how good he potentially is,” said Richardson.

A Plus Tard was a length and a half away from making a memorable week unforgettable in the Gold Cup and Aintree is on his agenda.

Richardson said: “I think A Plus Tard showed he stayed the trip well enough and he’s only a young horse, hopefully he’ll have a few more goes at it. He’s only seven.

“We may see him back at Aintree where that track would suit him, if the travelling and the race hasn’t taken too much out of him. He needs to go left-handed ideally.”

Cheveley Park are still relative newcomers to the National Hunt scene after the late David Thompson decided he wanted to cheer on a small but select string in the winter months. Thompson sadly died in January.

“We sent a small but strong team, but to have three winners and two seconds was fantastic and it was a fitting tribute to David Thompson,” said Richardson.

“David Thompson wanted them to run in Cheveley’s colours and wanted some action during the winter months. We couldn’t have dreamed it would work out so well.

“Last week really was pinch yourself stuff and a great credit to the Thompsons, and Tom Malone and Alex Elliott who source the horses.

“It’s obviously been a very tough time and it would have been lovely had David Thompson seen Cheltenham week, but it wasn’t to be. He certainly leaves a great legacy.”

Henry de Bromhead planning to keep Gold Cup one-two apart if he can

Minella Indo and A Plus Tard are likely to run at Punchestown and Aintree respectively after providing Henry de Bromhead with a one-two in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Knockeen-based handler enjoyed a memorable week in the Cotswolds – becoming the first trainer to saddle the winner of the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and Gold Cup in the same week.

Minella Indo completed the feat when denying better-fancied stablemate A Plus Tard in Friday’s feature – and could now bid to crown his season with victory in the Punchestown Gold Cup on April 28.

“I look back at the Gold Cup with disbelief, to be honest. I watched it back this morning and was kind of going ‘this didn’t happen’,” De Bromhead said on Racing TV’s Luck on Sunday programme.

“Minella Indo kept staying and I’m not sure we’ve seen the half of him – he’s so tough.

“I haven’t really spoken to Barry (Maloney, owner) about plans, but Punchestown would be great if he seems good – I think we should strongly consider Punchestown.”

A Plus Tard ran an excellent race to fill the runner-up spot under the all-conquering Rachael Blackmore and could head for the Betway Bowl at Aintree, given his preference for left-handed tracks.

De Bromhead also nominated next season’s Betfair Chase at Haydock as a possible target.

Minella Indo and A Plus Tard after the Gold Cup
Minella Indo and A Plus Tard after the Gold Cup (David Davies/PA)

He added: “The one question about A Plus Tard going into Cheltenham was he’s got so much class, would he get the last two furlongs? But he really did, in fairness to him – and wouldn’t he have been a very impressive winner if ‘Indo’ wasn’t there?

“A Plus Tard’s form is ridiculously better on left-handed tracks, so if he’s well, we’re considering Aintree for him.

“That (going left-handed) limits him, but the race at Haydock could be a lovely race for him in the autumn.

“When you have two horses like that, you’d love to try to keep them apart as best you can.”

The first of six winners on the week for De Bromhead and Blackmore was the brilliant mare Honeysuckle, who stretched her unbeaten record to 11 with a runaway success in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday.

While future plans are up in the air, connections have mooted the possibility of a career over fences, with a bid to emulate the great Dawn Run – the only horse to win a Champion Hurdle and a Gold Cup – in mind.

“It’s something we’ll have to give a lot of thought to and ultimately it comes down to Kenny (Alexander, owner),” said De Bromhead.

“She’s an extremely valuable mare. There’s probably a little bit more risk over fences, but without wanting to tempt fate, she goes off loose every Sunday morning in our indoor school and she takes off and goes off jumping for sport.

“Every Sunday morning she jumps a chase fence about four times and she loves it.

“I haven’t actually schooled over fences outside, but she’s a point-to-point winner and makes that shape over hurdles, so if Kenny said he’d like to go chasing – I think it’s something we all need to discuss, the pros and cons, and then ultimately it’s down to Kenny to decide what he wants to do.”

Bob Olinger was awesome in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle
Bob Olinger was awesome in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Michael Steele/PA)

De Bromhead, who also struck Festival gold with Put The Kettle On in the Champion Chase, Bob Olinger in the Ballymore, Telmesomethinggirl in the Mares Novices’ Hurdle, Quilixios in the Triumph Hurdle, faces a period of isolation after returning to County Waterford.

He added: “It’s been a bit quiet for me, as I have to quarantine for five days, but it’s buzzing around the place.

“Last year we went with similar horses and a similar team. We had two winners and we were happy, (but) people were saying we’d be top trainer and things like that, but we possibly didn’t quite fulfil what we had hoped we could do.

“Coming into this year, you know it could just be the same as the year before, but we ended getting what we got and it’s just incredible.

“It’s so tough to win there (Cheltenham). Everybody has the ups and downs of the place – that’s racing to be honest, but at Cheltenham even more so as it’s so competitive.

Rachael Blackmore enjoyed a memorable week
Rachael Blackmore enjoyed a memorable week (David Davies/Jockey Club)

“There’s plenty of ups and downs and you really appreciate the ups when you get them.”

De Bromhead was also keen to praise the achievements of Blackmore, who became the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle and the first to be crowned leading jockey at the Festival.

He said: “She works hard and has had to work hard. She’s a 10-year overnight success.

“She’s had all the knocks. I know the feeling and you just have to work your way through it and try to step forward and not back.

“Rachael appreciates what it takes to be at the top of this game. She’s brilliant to work with and has every race planned out.

“I thought some of her rides this week were brilliant. She’s just a great rider and a great person.”

Blackmore stepped forward as Cheltenham reminded everyone how great racing can be

Rachael Blackmore must have heard on the grapevine that the 2021 Cheltenham Festival was holding out for a heroine – and she answered the call to game-changing effect.

This year’s showpiece meeting got under way, undoubtedly, at a highly vulnerable tipping point of public perception for the sport of racing.

It was against a potentially bleak backdrop that Blackmore shone a light with historic triumph after historic triumph – surpassing the achievements of hundreds of jockeys of whichever gender by winning the Champion Hurdle, four more Grade Ones and consequently the leading rider award, the first female to come close to any of the above.

Rachael Blackmore holds the Ruby Walsh Trophy as the leading rider at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival
Rachael Blackmore holds the Ruby Walsh Trophy as the leading rider at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival (Tim Goode/PA)

She finished a mere second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup as A Plus Tard could not quite manage to haul back his Henry de Bromhead stablemate Minella Indo, ridden by Jack Kennedy.

Her spectacularly successful meeting will, of course, be career-defining – although plenty more glories surely lie ahead – but it is more than a personal triumph, because it has upended the landscape of possibilities, for female jockeys especially, when it comes to habitually riding winners on National Hunt’s greatest stage.

More perhaps than any of that, or certainly at least as significant, is that Blackmore’s exemplary timing has been in evidence not just in the thick of the action but in the bigger picture, at a moment when racing needed her like never before.

Doubts are still cast by many over the probity of holding the Cheltenham Festival with a near quarter-of-a-million footfall 12 months ago when the consequences at the start of a developing pandemic were unknown.

Those rumblings may never be dispelled – and yet, potentially damaging as they have been for racing, a darker cloud hung over the sport in the weeks before this year’s meeting as the lovers and haters struggled equally to comprehend an image which first stretched universal credibility and then sensibilities.

After Gordon Elliott confirmed the authenticity of a photograph circulated on social media of him sat on a dead horse, racing was aghast and beset by headlines calling into question its very being.

As the County Meath trainer began a year-long ban, the second six months suspended, the sport therefore got under way with its reputation hanging in the balance and its future well-being perhaps dependent on a feelgood Festival.

Bob Olinger was a Grade One winner for Rachael Blackmore on Wednesda
Bob Olinger was a Grade One winner for Rachael Blackmore on Wednesday (Michael Steele/PA)

In the ongoing absence of crowds and owners, because of coronavirus restrictions, that was going to be no easy task.

But step forward Blackmore.

Her utter domination arrived in partnership for the most part with De Bromhead, who eventually had to cede the meeting’s top trainer award to the record-breaking Willie Mullins, but shared the limelight throughout as he marginally outdid even Blackmore by becoming the first ever to win the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at the same Festival.

Blackmore fired her first big opening salvo when Honeysuckle stormed to a near seven-length victory in Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle.

She was only just getting started, though.

Next came two Wednesday winners, De Bromhead’s Bob Olinger off the blocks in the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Sir Gerhard rounding out the card in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Blackmore’s three falls to earth in between merely reminded one and all of how remarkable her achievements were becoming, and how dangerous jump racing can be – whatever the talent of the participants.

Rachael Blackmore and Allaho were outstanding winners of the Ryanair Chase
Rachael Blackmore and Allaho were outstanding winners of the Ryanair Chase (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Two more winners on Thursday included a breathtaking performance from horse and jockey as the front-running Allaho dismissed his Grade One rivals in the Ryanair Chase by 12 lengths and more.

By the time the Gold Cup came round in the middle of Friday afternoon, Blackmore already had the Festival’s top rider award surely in safe keeping – although Kennedy made her wait just a little longer by pegging back the score, thanks to Minella Indo.

Blackmore’s celebratory post-race interviews had begun to have a glorious groundhog feel to them, if such a thing is possible.

She spoke eloquently and modestly throughout, though, about how much she owed those who had put her in position to keep winning Cheltenham’s greatest races.

In truth, Blackmore was the gift that kept on giving – and in 2021, racing could never have more reason to be grateful.

Rachael Blackmore set to partner A Plus Tard in Gold Cup

Rachael Blackmore is set to ride A Plus Tard in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup, trainer Henry de Bromhead has revealed, with Jack Kennedy on his other runner, Minella Indo.

Blackmore partnered A Plus Tard to victory in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Festival in 2019 and when third in the Ryanair Chase last year.

However, Darragh O’Keeffe was on board when A Plus Tard registered his biggest success so far, in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown in December.

On that occasion, Blackmore rode Minella Indo, who fell for the first time in his career when sent off the 5-2 favourite.

De Bromhead said: “A Plus Tard was really good in the Savills Chase at Christmas. I am delighted with him. He had a hard enough race there so we decided to put him away for this.

“At the moment, Rachael is going to ride A Plus Tard and Jack Kennedy is going to ride Minella Indo.”

De Bromhead reports Minella Indo, who was dramatically caught close home by Champ in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at last year’s Festival, to be in good shape after finishing fourth to Kemboy in last month’s Irish Gold Cup.

“He is in mighty form now and loves Cheltenham – he comes alive over there and his record is brilliant,” he said.
 
“He has a real live chance. It was tough to get nabbed like he was last year by Champ, but that’s Cheltenham – these things happen and there is always drama.”

De Bromhead has confirmed Honeysuckle as a definite runner in the Unibet Champion Hurdle, giving Blackmore another major chance in one of the showpiece events at Cheltenham.

“She’s going for the Champion Hurdle. That’s the plan, she seems in good form and all is good. We were delighted with her at Leopardstown winning the Irish Champion Hurdle,” said the County Waterford trainer.

“She’s an amazing mare and we feel very lucky to have her.”

Honeysuckle could have gone for the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle which she won in 2020.

Aspire Tower is in the Champion Hurdle mix for Henry de Bromhead
Aspire Tower is in the Champion Hurdle mix for Henry de Bromhead (Brian Lawless/PA)

Aspire Tower and Jason The Militant could also line-up for De Bromhead in the Champion Hurdle.

“We’ve also got Aspire Tower in it and possibly Jason The Militant. They both have good chances,” he said.

De Bromhead plans to have two runners in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, with Blackmore on Notebook and Aidan Coleman booked for Put The Kettle On.

Put The Kettle On has won all three of her starts at Cheltenham, including the Arkle Trophy in March last year, and he said: “She loves it over there. She’s just come alive since she started going there and just keeps improving all the time.

“Obviously she had the option of the mares’ chase, but we’ve decided to go with the Champion Chase. I suppose the records of Arkle winners are so strong and we’ve got our mare’s allowance so we’ve said we’ll give it a go.”

The mare was only seen three times from September 2019 before winning at Cheltenham last March and De Bromhead admits he has been keen to stick to a similar formula.

He explained: “It seemed to work well last year and although she’d been on the go for the whole of the summer in her novice season she hadn’t this year, so we had to get a couple of runs into her.”

Chacun Pour Soi casts a big shadow over the Champion Chase
Chacun Pour Soi casts a big shadow over the Champion Chase (PA)

De Bromhead rates Chacun Pour Soi as the main danger in the championship race and admitted he is yet to find a way to beat Willie Mullins’ star chaser, who is odds-on favourite for the Champion Chase.

“We’ve tried various ways to have a go at him with Notebook, but he’s just been so impressive. He’s going to be very hard to beat, but we’ll give it our best shot,” he said.

Notebook has disappointed on his two outings at Cheltenham, but De Bromhead is hoping he can put the record straight.

“I suppose it would have to be now, in fairness. But he’s a very good horse,” he added.

A Plus Tard set to head straight to Cheltenham

Savills Chase winner A Plus Tard is likely to sidestep the Dublin Racing Festival and head straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Connections are keen to give the seven-year-old as long as possible to get over his exertions from the Christmas feature at Leopardstown, in which he proved his stamina for three miles with a relentless finish to overhaul Kemboy and Melon.

While he would have another two furlongs to tackle at Cheltenham, the manner of his victory, in coming from well off the pace, has given his team hope Henry de Bromhead’s charge will be a genuine player in the blue riband come March.

“A Plus Tard was very impressive. It was obviously a step into the unknown, but it has opened up so many more options and one is clearly the Gold Cup,” said Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“He likes to run left-handed and he likes to run fresh and we’re very fortunate to have a selection of special horses.

“He was eyecatching in that performance. It was a bit of a punt to see if he stayed, but occasionally you have got to roll the dice and it worked out a treat. He’s very exciting and a serious star in his own right.

“I don’t think he’ll run at the Dublin Racing Festival, I think he’ll go straight to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup, as he runs so well fresh. So I think we’ll just go there.

“He had a hard race the other day and it wasn’t easy, it was a pure test so we don’t want to rush him back, we’ll be patient and go for the Festival, all being well.”

One Cheveley Park-owned star who will not be at Cheltenham is Ferny Hollow, but Richardson has not given up hope the Champion Bumper winner will run again this season – especially given the horse he beat on his hurdles debut has subsequently won a Grade One.

“Obviously Ferny Hollow’s form was franked by Bob Olinger the other day and it’s frustrating he won’t be there,” said Richardson.

“He might make Punchestown, that is the hope, but I wouldn’t want to tempt fate. That is what we would like to think.”

De Bromhead pair feature in high-class Dublin Racing Festival entries

A Plus Tard and Minello Indo are on course for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup on the second day of the Dublin Racing Festival.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained duo highlight the list of 12 possibles for the February 7 showpiece following their differing fortunes over Christmas.

Minella Indo was sent off favourite for the Savills Chase at Leopardstown, but was an early casualty, while A Plus Tard finished with a wet sail to catch Kemboy and Melon.

The Willie Mullins pair could once again be in opposition, as could their stablemate Castlebawn West, but there was no entry for dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo.

Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work, Presenting Percy, Samcro and The Storyteller all feature, but there are no British entries for any of the Grade Ones over the two days of the big meeting.

Elliott’s Envoi Allen is one of 17 in the Flogas Novice Chase, in which he could be joined by stablemate Andy Dufresne and Pencilfulloflead.

Monkfish has made a big impression over fences to date
Monkfish has made a big impression over fences to date (PA Wire)

Mullins’ Monkfish, Colreevy and Asterion Forlonge all have the option.

Impressive debut winner French Aseel, now with Mullins having been bought out of Ellmarie Holden’s yard, is among 16 in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle.

Elliott’s Zanahiyr has created a big impression to date and would be a leading contender along with stablemates Duffle Coat and Quilixios.

A total of 25 promising types have been entered in the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle over two miles.

Once more, the list is dominated by Mullins and Elliott with Appreciate It likely to be Mullins’ main hope although he has given the mare Gauloise an entry against the boys.

Chacun Pour Soi (right) was impressive at Christmas
Chacun Pour Soi (right) was impressive at Christmas (PA Wire)

A day earlier Chacun Pour Soi appears as one of 11 in the Ladbrokes Dublin Chase.

Jessica Harrington’s duo of Sizing Pottsie and Impact Factor have been entered along with Samcro.

De Bromhead’s top-class mare Honeysuckle headlines nine in the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle.

Winner of the race last year, she could face stablemate Aspire Tower while Mullins has entered Sharjah, Saint Roi and Saldier.

Wednesday’s impressive winner Energumene is one of 15 in the Irish Arkle in which Mullins could also run Asterion Forlonge, Franco De Port and Unexcepted.

Envoi Allen also has the two-mile option along with Felix Desjy and Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition.

In the Nathaniel Lacy Solicitors Novice Hurdle there are 36 in the mix including Mullins’ Ganapathi, the Mouse Morris-trained Gentlemansgame and Emmet Mullins’ Cape Gentleman.

Monalee setback likely to rule him out for the season

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.

Monalee could miss the rest of the season through injury
Monalee could miss the rest of the season through injury (Niall Carson/PA)

“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.

Put The Kettle On is being aimed at the Queen Mother Champion Chase
Put The Kettle On is being aimed at the Queen Mother Champion Chase (Simon Cooper/PA)

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's next race is likely to be the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham
Aspire Tower’s next race is likely to be the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham (Niall Carson/PA)

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.”