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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.”

De Bromhead hoping for speedy recovery for Monalee

Henry de Bromhead is unsure how long Monalee will spend on the sidelines following a recent setback.

Beaten less than two lengths into fourth place in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, the nine-year-old finished third behind Presenting Percy and Kemboy on his reappearance at Tramore in November, setting him 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, an injury has put all plans on hold.

Speaking after saddling a New Year’s Day winner at Tramore, De Bromhead said: “Monalee has unfortunately just had this setback.

“I’m not sure yet, but we’ll see how he is and hopefully we can get him back soon enough.”

Monalee is just one of three potential Gold Cup candidates for De Bromhead along with A Plus Tard and Minella Indo, who had contrasting fortunes in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on Monday.

Minella Indo was favourite for a vintage renewal of the Grade One contest, but fell at the eighth fence, while A Plus Tard proved his stamina for the three-mile distance by charging home to claim a narrow victory over Kemboy and Melon.

De Bromhead is considering the possibility of the pair renewing rivalry in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in early February.

He added: “Minella Indo is in good form and seems perfect since Leopardstown. He’ll be entered in the Irish Gold Cup now.

“A Plus Tard is great, he seems in good form. I’m delighted with him, obviously.

“I haven’t made any plans for him yet. He’ll stay in and around that trip now.

“That was a career-best performance and it was great to get it. The Irish Gold Cup is a possibility, but we’ll see – I haven’t discussed anything yet with his owners.”

Gold Cup looms large after A Plus Tard’s Savills win

A Plus Tard’s connections are giving the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup serious consideration after his dramatic victory in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

The six-year-old was only third jumping the final fence on Monday, but then produced a late burst to collar Kemboy and Melon close home.

That was just the second time Henry de Bromhead’s chaser had tackled three miles over fences – having been put in his place by Delta Work as a novice over slightly further in April last year, albeit racing right-handed at Punchestown.

He has not raced that way round since, and De Bromhead is on record suggesting he will not be tempted to ask him to do so again.

The Gold Cup is over a further two and a half furlongs than A Plus Tard’s Leopardstown win, but it is likely to be the objective after he prevailed through stamina in the Savills Chase.

“It was fantastic and a great ride by the young lad (Darragh O’Keeffe),” said Chris Richardson, managing director of owners Cheveley Park Stud.

“It has given us so many more options now to be able to step up in trip. It was very exciting.

“I thought he was going to be third, and we’d have been happy with that.”

Further discussions are therefore now on the agenda.

“Obviously we will talk to Mr (David) Thompson (Cheveley Park owner) and see what he wants to do – but the Gold Cup would be favourite at this point, I would think,” added Richardson.

“We haven’t spoken about it yet. Now we know he stays three miles, that gives so many more options.

“I’d expect him to have one more run before Cheltenham – but that was very special.”

Cheveley Park Stud's Allaho also ran a fine race for Willie Mullins
Cheveley Park Stud’s Allaho also ran a fine race for Willie Mullins (Brian Lawless/PA)

Cheveley Park also had Allaho in the Grade One, and the Willie Mullins-trained gelding was not disgraced in fourth place.

“Allaho ran OK too. He has just taken a while to get fit this year,” said Richardson.

“Willie is telling me he’s just not quite there yet, but we can build on that.”

A Plus Tard swoops late to grab Savills success

A Plus Tard finished with a flourish to collar Kemboy in the final strides in a vintage renewal of the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

Kemboy looked sure to win the race for a second time in three years, having helped set a strong gallop in the early stages before stablemate Melon took over the lead with a mile to run.

Melon went well clear at one stage, but David Mullins did not panic on Kemboy and when Melon stuttered into the second last, Kemboy reclaimed the lead.

It looked sure to be a Willie Mullins-trained winner as at that stage Allaho was third, but as he dropped away, A Plus Tard could be seen making ground.

Stepping up to three miles for just the second time, Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard (15-2) hit overdrive having jumped the last with many lengths still to find and he ended up providing jockey Darragh O’Keeffe with the biggest win of his career by half a length.

The race lost some of its lustre when the front two in the betting, Minella Indo and Delta Work, departed within two fences of each other early on the second circuit.

The winner was cut to 10-1 from 66s by Betfair for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

“He did everything right, he travelled and I thought we went a really good gallop,” said O’Keeffe.

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“Rachael (Blackmore) said to me beforehand that she was going to sit upsides in front (on Minella Indo), and she was only a couple of lengths ahead of me, so I wasn’t worried.

“I sat away and had Paul Townend in front of me (on Allaho) and he (A Plus Tard) was pinging fences.

“When I gave him a squeeze after jumping the second last, he picked up and he galloped right to the line. After the back of the last I did (think I was going to get there).

“It was brilliant and I’m absolutely over the moon. I can’t thank Henry de Bromhead enough – it’s my first Grade One winner and my first winner for him. This lad had a real, live chance.

“There were a few questions about whether he stayed or not, but he definitely stayed anyway.”

A Plus Tard after winning the Savills Chase
A Plus Tard after winning the Savills Chase (Niall Carson/PA)

De Bromhead hailed O’Keeffe’s effort, adding: “It was some finish, he was brilliant. He stayed really well and it was a super ride from Darragh.

“It was unfortunate with Minella Indo, but he seems OK which is the most important thing and Rachael seems OK.

“It’s very frustrating, but I’m delighted for A Plus Tard, for Darragh and for (owner) Cheveley Park (Stud).

“It was a brilliant ride from Darragh, he was very cool on him.

Henry De Bromhead with his trophy
Henry De Bromhead with his trophy (Niall Carson/PA)

“I said it to (Cheveley Park managing director) Chris Richardson about Darragh and he was very happy after Rachael decided to go with Minella Indo.

“He’s an up-and-coming young rider and we were delighted to get him.

“He stayed on really well in the end. I thought he was staying on in the Ryanair last season and he definitely stayed on really well there.

“He won a Grade One here over two (miles and) one (furlong) last year and now he’s won over three miles. He’s still only six.

“We’ll see what we do now. He had a tough race there so I’ll speak to all the connections and decide after that. I’m delighted with today.”

When asked if he could be a Gold Cup contender, De Bromhead added: “Absolutely, he stayed at it really well and needed every inch of it.

“I wouldn’t like to make any plans yet. We’ll enjoy today as this is a pretty savage race to win.

“We’ll see whether it’s the Ryanair or the Gold Cup, it’s up to everyone involved.”