Tag Archive for: Cheltenham Gold Cup

Boodles to sponsor Cheltenham Gold Cup

Boodles has been named as the new sponsor of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Festival highlight carried the name of children’s charity WellChild last year after cider brand Magners decided to cease sponsorship of blue riband event at the end of 2020.

The jeweller Boodles now steps in to back the Cheltenham Gold Cup having previously sponsored the Leading Jockey Award for four years before taking on the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle race since 2018.

WellChild will also benefit from the race again this year, with Boodles donating a piece of fine jewellery from its collection to auction to support of the charity.

Nicholas Wainwright, chairman of Boodles, said: “Boodles is thrilled to have the opportunity to sponsor the Cheltenham Gold Cup. We have had a long association with horseracing at Aintree over many years – having been established in Liverpool in 1798 – and of course in recent years at the home of jump racing, Cheltenham.

“Today’s announcement expands a multi-year partnership, starting with our sponsorship of the Leading Jockey Award at the Festival, then the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle and now the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup itself.

“Our involvement and sponsorship of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a perfect fit for us and we are going to enjoy the journey.”

Cheltenham’s managing director Ian Renton added: “It is wonderful to enjoy this association with Boodles, such an iconic British brand, at Cheltenham and we are very proud to see this partnership expand to take on the most prestigious jump race in the world.”

Cheltenham options open for Kempton scorer Mister Fisher

Mister Fisher has two potential Cheltenham Festival targets after his taking Grade Two Silviniaco Conti victory at the weekend.

The eight-year-old made his seasonal debut in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day but was pulled up by rider Sean Bowen before the third fence from home.

A return to the same track on Saturday produced an entirely different result, however, with the gelding this time seemingly in his element as he jumped faultlessly under James Bowen to cross the line a length and three-quarters ahead of runner-up Eldorado Allen.

James Potter, who owns the horse under the James and Jean Potter Ltd banner, was thrilled to see him back on form and praised the efforts of trainer Nicky Henderson and his team.

“It was fantastic to see Mister Fisher win the Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton on Saturday,” he said.

“Nicky Henderson, along with all of the team involved at Seven Barrows, have done a brilliant job in getting him back to his best – especially Jan, who rides him every day, and his groom Sarah Shreeve.

“He has always been a very high class horse, ever since he won a bumper on his racecourse debut, and seemed to really enjoy himself on Saturday when jumping and travelling with great fluency under a wonderful ride by James Bowen, who rode him with such confidence.”

Mister Fisher after his Kempton triumph
Mister Fisher after his Kempton triumph (Steven Paston/PA)

Though Mister Fisher’s King George bid ended prematurely, connections took heart from the performance and were buoyant ahead of his run in the Silviniaco Conti, a race for which he started as the 15-8 favourite.

“He ran well in the Grade One King George on his first run of the season off the back of an interrupted preparation on ground which was against him, so we were pretty hopeful going into Saturday’s race,” Potter said.

The horse now holds entries for both the Ryanair Chase, a race he was pulled up in last season, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

His owners are keen for a Festival run but will ultimately leave Henderson to make the final call on which contest the seven-times winner will line up in.

“We will leave any decisions as to where he runs next to his trainer, but we would obviously love to go to Cheltenham and the Ryanair Chase would seem the most logical race,” Potter said.

Mister Fisher is run in the same silks as the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained mare Vienna Court, who was last seen winning the Grade Three New Year’s Day Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and will return to action at Huntingdon at the end of the month for the Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase.

“James and Jean Potter Ltd are in a very fortunate position at present because we also have Vienna Court, who has won twice at Cheltenham this season, and she runs at Huntington on January 28,” Potter said.

Gordon Elliott still favouring direct Festival route for Galvin

Gordon Elliott has reiterated his desire to head straight for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Galvin – despite entering him for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown next month.

The eight-year-old emerged as a serious contender for the blue riband when lunging late to deny last year’s Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard back-to-back wins in Leopardstown’s Savills Chase in December.

Elliott stated afterwards that Galvin would not run again before the showpiece meeting at Prestbury Park in March, but did enter him for the Irish Gold Cup last week.

But while Paddy Power are offering a €150,000 bonus to any horse who can complete the Gold Cup double, the Cullentra handler is keen to stick to Plan A.

He said: “He’s in at Leopardstown but I’d imagine he’ll go straight to the Gold Cup.

“We just stuck him in to give him an option, but he’ll go straight to the Gold Cup.”

Galvin is a best priced 5-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, making him the second-favourite behind A Plus Tard at 7-2.

De Bromhead pair among 30 in Gold Cup reckoning

Minella Indo and A Plus Tard, last year’s first and second, top 30 entries for the Cheltenham Gold Cup – the highlight of the Festival meeting in March.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead, the duo were separated by just a length and a quarter in 2021, but it is A Plus Tard who is the ante-post favourite at this stage after winning the Betfair Chase before being narrowly denied in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown last week, while Minella Indo disappointed in the King George at Kempton.

Willie Mullins’ dual winner Al Boum Photo had to settle for third in his hat-trick bid last term, but he is in the mix to try to regain his crown after a triumphant seasonal debut at Tramore on New Year’s Day.

He is part of a seven-strong entry from the champion Irish handler who has also nominated King George hero Tornado Flyer plus John Durkan winner Allaho, Asterion Forlonge, Carefully Selected, Franco De Port and Melon.

Galvin beat A Plus Tard last week
Galvin beat A Plus Tard last week (Donall Farmer/PA)

Savills Chase winner Galvin is Gordon Elliott’s leading hope at this stage, with the trainer making five initial entries including the mare Mount Ida, who was a Grade Three winner at Punchestown on New Year’s Day.

Dan Skelton’s Protektorat is the shortest-priced home-trainer contender at this point, with Nicky Henderson’s Long Walk Hurdle winner Champ and another King George flop, Chantry House, also among the possibles.

Leading novice Ahoy Senor is an eyecatching entry for Lucinda Russell having won at Newbury and found only Bravemansgame too good at Kempton over Christmas.

Fiddlerontheroof, Lostintranslation, Royale Pagaille and Aye Right are also on the list.

Lostintranslation was a winner at Ascot in November
Lostintranslation was a winner at Ascot in November (Nigel French/PA)

Lostintranslation finished third in the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup, but the 10-year-old failed to sparkle last term and was pulled up at the Festival.

He returned with an Ascot win in November and while he could finish only fifth in the King George, Tizzard’s son and assistant Joe feels he could still make his presence felt at Cheltenham.

He said: “He is entered up in both the Gold Cup and Ryanair but he has dropped to a mark of 157 which is quite interesting.

“He was very good on his comeback in the Grade Two at Ascot which was a great confidence booster to him and it showed he has still got the ability.

“He travelled well in the King George and then he hit a bit of a flat spot. But then he kept on galloping all the way to the line. Kempton can sometimes do that to horses. He has come out of the race fine but he knows that he has had a race.

“He will probably run in either the Denman Chase or the Ascot Chase, then he will have another go at the Gold Cup. He has got a bit to find in the Gold Cup but we will take our chance and hopefully have a good spring campaign.”

Fiddlerontheroof has a Gold Cup entry
Fiddlerontheroof has a Gold Cup entry (David Davies/PA)

The Tizzard team also handle Fiddlerontheroof, winner of the Listed Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle before finishing second in the Grade Three Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last time.

Tizzard said: “It was a good run first time out in the Colin Parker at Carlisle and he won that day in a fast time.

“He then ran a blinder in the Ladbrokes Trophy off 150 and he stayed on really well. He got slightly interfered with four out and that maybe stopped his momentum a little bit, but it was still a cracking run.

“We’ve stuck him in the Gold Cup and we will look to run him in the Denman Chase or something like that around that time.

“He is a decent horse and took us on some really good days last season but he has always been really consistent.”

Shishkin made a winning return at Kempton
Shishkin made a winning return at Kempton (Steven Paston/PA)

Shishkin and Energumene headline 22 contenders for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, the feature race on the second day of the Festival, March 16.

The Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin landed the Arkle at last year’s meeting before going on to further Grade One glory at Aintree, while he kept his unbeaten record over fences intact when making an impressive return in the Desert Orchid Chase over the Christmas period.

A late setback saw Energumene miss out on his Arkle date, but he gained compensation at the Punchestown Festival and is yet to be topped in five chase starts, most recently landing the Hilly Way at Cork last month.

He is one of three potential challengers for Mullins, along with Allaho and Chacun Pour Soi, who was only third in this race last year.

Put The Kettle On is entered to defend her Champion Chase title
Put The Kettle On is entered to defend her Champion Chase title (David Davies/Jockey Club)

De Bromhead’s reigning champion Put The Kettle On is entered again, but she has been below her best so far this term, while runner-up Nube Negra could renew rivalries for the Skelton team.

Envoi Allen is another of four De Bromhead entries, along with Notebook and Captain Guinness, with Paul Nicholls’ Tingle Creek hero Greaneteen one of four entries for the champion trainer.

A number of contenders for the Gold Cup and Champion Chase also feature in the Ryanair Chase contenders, with the 36 including Allaho, A Plus Tard, Energumene, Tornado Flyer and Put The Kettle On amongst others.

Allaho won the race last year and he is the ante-post favourite, with last year’s second Fakir D’Oudairies entered by Joseph O’Brien and also prominent in the betting.

The Skelton-trained Shan Blue is in the mix while Midnight Shadow, Defi Du Seuil, Dashel Drasher and Janidil are other familiar names.

Cheltenham Festival day four – Another Photo-finish just what Mullins is looking for

Friday is the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival – and the day when the sport’s best steeplechasers line-up for the most revered race of the jumps calendar, the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Al Boum Photo is the star attraction as he bids to win the race for the third successive season for his trainer Willie Mullins, potentially emulating greats such as Best Mate and Arkle in the process.

The most precocious four-year-olds in the hurdling sphere will battle it out in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, with the Denise Foster-trained Zanahiyr undoubtedly the one to beat on what he has done so far.

Mullins is again responsible for a leading fancy in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle as Stattler represents the yard in the race won by Monkfish last season.

The final afternoon also means the leading trainer and jockey titles can be awarded as the sun sets on what is hopefully the first and last Cheltenham Festival held behind closed doors.

Three in a row for Al Boum Photo?

Paul Townend celebrates with Al Boum Photo after winning the Gold Cup
Paul Townend celebrates with Al Boum Photo after winning the Gold Cup (Jacob King/PA)

Al Boum Photo has a chance to become one of only five horses to win three Gold Cups as he lines up in the race that is the pinnacle of the jumps season. His preparation has run along similar lines to previous years with an easy win at Tramore on New Year’s Day, giving little away with regards to his chance against the likes of Champ, last season’s Ryanair winner, and Grade One Savills Chase champion A Plus Tard. The latter is the mount of Champion Hurdle heroine Rachael Blackmore – and do not discount Bryony Frost on Frodon, either.

Will Zanahiyr be triumphant?

Zanahiyr has been hugely impressive so far
Zanahiyr has been hugely impressive so far (PA)

The young stars of the hurdling division assemble for the Triumph Hurdle, with Zanahiyr the leading light. The gelding is now campaigned by Denise Foster and will face stiff competition from Alan King’s Tritonic, who was impressive when taking the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton. Henry de Bromhead also has a live chance with the undefeated Quilixios, who won the Grade One Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle before leaving Gordon Elliott’s Cullentra yard.

Stattler set for Albert Bartlett stardom

Stattler is yet another leading chance for Willie Mullins
Stattler is yet another leading chance for Willie Mullins (PA)

The line-up for the three-mile Albert Bartlett Hurdle is led by Stattler, but Foster’s Fakiera is also a well-fancied runner despite finishing two lengths behind the former when both horses were beaten at Leopardstown by Gaillard Du Mesnil. Bringing less prestigious but more consistent form to the table Paul Nicholls’ Barbados Buck’s, who has triumphed in three successive novice hurdles in the run-up to the Festival.

Bonus chasing

Harry Skelton and Langer Dan (left) at Sandown
Harry Skelton and Langer Dan (left) at Sandown (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Saturday’s easy Paddy Power Imperial Cup winner Langer Dan will bid for the £50,000 bonus which has only ever been won three times after making the cut for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle with two to spare. The participation of Dan Skelton’s five-year-old was in the balance until the 48-hour declaration stage, as despite picking up a 5lb penalty he still needed around 20 of those above him to come out. However, he gets into the race close to the foot of the handicap and will be 5lb ‘well in’, having been raised 10lb since his Sandown win.

Al Boum Photo faces 11 rivals as he chases Gold Cup hat-trick

Al Boum Photo is among a field of 12 as he seeks to join an elite list as a three-time winner of the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Only Golden Miller (five times), Cottage Rake, Arkle and Best Mate have won chasing’s blue riband event three years in a row – and Willie Mullins’ charge is favourite to join them on Friday.

Ireland’s champion trainer also runs Kemboy, a multiple Grade One winner in his own right who is having his third run in the race, having unseated his rider in 2019 and finished seventh last year.

Perhaps an even bigger story, though, would be if Champion Hurdle victor Rachael Blackmore were to complete a historic double on Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard, who came from the clouds to win the Savills Chase at Christmas.

He is owned by Cheveley Park Stud, and their managing director Chris Richardson said: “He travelled well, and Henry seems very happy with him.

“He was very impressive in the Savills. He didn’t look the winner there as he turned for home, but we were delighted that he won in the last stride and got the trip so well.

“It’s a dream to have a runner in the Gold Cup.”

Rachael Blackmore with A Plus Tard on the gallops on Wednesday morning
Rachael Blackmore with A Plus Tard on the gallops on Wednesday morning (David Davies/Jockey Club)

De Bromhead also has a decent second string in Minella Indo, who went close to winning for a second time at the meeting last year when second to the fast-finishing Champ in the race now known as the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s Champ has not had the ideal preparation, but he did finally reappear in the rearranged Game Spirit 26 days ago over two miles, and he takes his chance in the Festival feature.

He is the mount of Nico de Boinville, meaning the ride on last year’s runner-up and stablemate Santini goes to Aidan Coleman.

Just behind Santini and Al Boum Photo 12 months ago was Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation, but he has failed to run to form three times this season and needs to bounce back.

Native River is having a fourth run in the race for Colin Tizzard
Native River is having a fourth run in the race for Colin Tizzard (David Davies/PA)

Tizzard’s veteran Native River is also back for another run in the race – having finished third, first and fourth previously.

The King George VI Chase winner Frodon and Bryony Frost would also be popular winners.

Having won the Ryanair Chase two years ago, Frodon needs to prove his stamina for this trip, but a victory would mean Paul Nicholls joins Tom Dreaper on five wins in the great race.

Venetia Williams runs two in Aso and the novice Royale Pagaille, with Tom George’s Black Op also declared.

WellChild has ‘dream opportunity’ as Cheltenham Gold Cup partner

Children’s charity WellChild will take centre stage this week as the partner of jump racing’s most revered event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

WellChild announced its association with the Jockey Club in February following cider brand Magners’ decision to cease sponsorship of the Festival showpiece in December last year.

Rather than seeking an alternative sponsor, the Jockey Club instead chose to strike up a partnership with the Cheltenham-based charity.

This year’s race will therefore be run as the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday.

WellChild’s principal aim is to prevent seriously ill children from spending long spells in hospitals, instead supporting families in providing the necessary care from home.

The charity’s links with the sport can be traced back to ITV Racing anchor Ed Chamberlin, who has been an ambassador for WellChild since 2012.

He was drawn to support the organisation after witnessing life in an adjacent children’s ward when he himself was undergoing treatment for stomach cancer in Southampton Hospital.

“It’s probably eight years or more that Ed’s been involved,” said WellChild Chief Executive Colin Dyer.

“He came along to an event as a guest and he’d been quite ill himself – he was in hospital for a while, and he saw young people in hospital.

“WellChild’s big push is to make sure that children don’t spend months and months in hospital, and that they can be cared for at home. Ed vowed to himself that he would help, so when he heard of what we do it just touched a nerve with him – and he’s been involved ever since.

“He does our fundraising golf days, and a lot of the racing community started coming along to the things we did and getting involved.

ITV Racing's Ed Chamberlin during St Patrick’s Thursday of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival
ITV Racing’s Ed Chamberlin at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival (Mike Egerton/PA)

“When this opportunity came along and they wanted to do this community-charity link, because the racing world has worked alongside us for a few years and heard our messages at events, it just seemed like a natural fit.

“He is fantastic for us, really passionate and pro-active, and has helped us hugely – especially now that we find ourselves as partners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.”

While fronting the ITV Racing coverage, Chamberlin is often joined by 20-time champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy – who has undertaken a punditry role since retiring from the saddle in 2015.

McCoy, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Mr Mulligan in 1997 and Synchronised in 2012, recently announced he too will be joining WellChild to act as an ambassador for the Festival.

“He’s just signed on the dotted line,” said Dyer.

“We find that with something as emotive as the work that WellChild does, when people see a chance to help, they want to take that chance.

“Hopefully Ed and AP will be able to pick that up in the coverage and shine a light on us and highlight what we do. They’re both such positive people as well, and so well respected.”

Sir AP McCoy on Synchronised after winning the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Sir AP McCoy on Synchronised after winning the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup (David Jones/PA)

While Dyer naturally hopes that a raised awareness of the charity’s work will result in an upturn in donations, an equally important aim is to reach out to families who are in need of help but may not have heard of the organisation.

“What we always find is that one of the real positives from spreading the word far and wide is that it brings families to us – it unearths people who may not realise that WellChild can support them,” he said.

“If it brings new families who are caring for seriously ill children to us, to help us support them, then that’s the biggest success we could possibly have from this.

“The second thing is that we are voluntary-funded charity, everything that we are able to do comes from the money that we have raised ourselves, so it’s being able to explain to people why we need their support – whether it’s a pound or a hundred pounds.

“There’ll be a lot of ‘text to donate’ messages, and people will be able to go to our website and donate – but having the platform to find more families who need our support is just a great opportunity for us.”

The charity relies on events to generate much of its income and has inevitably found that its calendar has been decimated by the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns.

“About 60 per cent of our income comes from events – and every event went, every single one,” added Dyer.

“Everybody’s in the same boat, and this partnership will hopefully help us fill that gap. It’s a dream opportunity.

“We’ve only known about it for about four weeks now, and it’s already been crazy. It’s created such a sense of positivity in and around the charity, just to have something like this.

“We’ve already seen the generosity of the racing community over the past few years, and I think filling that gap that Covid has left is going to be a really important element of this.”

As is customary for partnerships in high-profile races, WellChild branding will adorn the boards up the run-in for the big race, with the winning horse also set to wear a rug decorated with sketches drawn by some of the children the charity supports.

WellChild's branding will replace the Magners branding seen behind 2020 winner Al Boum Photo
WellChild’s branding will replace the Magners boards seen behind 2020 winner Al Boum Photo (Tim Goode/PA)

“This isn’t just a ‘stick-a-badge-on-it’ exercise for them,” Dyer said of the Jockey Club’s involvement with the partnership.

“They’ve been really creative and they clearly want to make a difference with this, which is brilliant to see.

“That was the real clincher for us, seeing how much the Jockey Club wanted to get behind this themselves to make that difference.”

ITV’s coverage of the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup drew an audience of 1.9 million, and the channel’s viewership has since risen as lockdown restricts most people to their homes – meaning a sizeable percentage of the population is likely to gain an awareness of the charity’s work after watching this year’s race.

“It is already a bit surreal to hear people saying ‘the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup’,” said Dyer.

“To have that ability to shine the light and be shown in people’s homes, which we wouldn’t ever really be able to do, it’s just a brilliant opportunity.”

Hat-trick seeking Al Boum Photo tops 13 in Gold Cup

Al Boum Photo will face a maximum of 12 rivals as he shoots for a third successive victory in Friday’s WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Willie Mullins’ runner will join a select band of three-times winners if he can triumph again in the Festival showpiece, becoming the first horse since Best Mate in 2004 to complete the feat.

The nine-year-old has won his only start so far this term and could be joined by fellow Mullins runners Kemboy and Melon, although the latter is still in the Ryanair.

Native River won the Gold Cup in 2018
Native River won the Gold Cup in 2018 (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He faces another previous winner in 2018 hero Native River, who is one of two for Colin Tizzard along with last year’s third Lostintranslation.

Santini was beaten just a neck by Al Boum Photo in 2020 and he is set to be one of two for Nicky Henderson, along with last year’s last-gasp RSA winner Champ, who made a satisfactory return when second in the Game Spirit last month.

Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost are set to team up with Frodon, winner of the 2019 Ryanair Chase and successful over three miles in the King George VI Chase when last seen while Royal Pagaille stands his ground for Venetia Williams, although he also remains in the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.

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

Williams also has Aso in the mix, with Tom George’s Black Op completing the home team.

In addition to Mullins’ trio, Henry de Bromhead has two Irish-trained contenders in A Plus Tard and Minella Indo.

A Plus Tard impressed when beating Kemboy in the Savills Chase at Christmas, while Minella Indo was well beaten by that Mullins runner when last seen in the Irish Gold Cup.

Nicholls senses Frodon may be surprise package in Gold Cup

Paul Nicholls will not be surprised if Frodon throws a spanner in the works for hat-trick seeker Al Boum Photo in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

While acknowledging Willie Mullins’ reigning dual champion will be hard to beat, Nicholls feels his challenger can be relied upon to give it his best shot in what the trainer views as an open race, barring the favourite.

Frodon, who famously landed the 2019 Ryanair Chase under regular rider Bryony Frost, sprang a surprise when scuppering stablemate Clan Des Obeaux’s bid for a third King George on Boxing Day – proving conclusively he is Grade One class at three miles.

Having also won the Cotswold Chase two years ago and a Cheltenham handicap on his seasonal return, the trip and track hold no fears for Nicholls.

Frodon was a surprise King George winner
Frodon was a surprise King George winner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He said: “Earlier this season he won a handicap off top-weight over three-mile-one, he’s won a King George – King George winners stay and do end up winning Gold Cups.

“He definitely wants a trip. We ran him in last year’s Ryanair, and he was completely outpaced all the way, (so) we decided this year we would stay over a longer trip. He’s in really good form, he worked beautifully this morning.

“He loves to be fresh and fit and he loves Cheltenham obviously – I think he’s won there six times. Often on the last day (of the Festival) the ground is decent, which would suit him.

“No one would expect him to win the Gold Cup – but if he did, I wouldn’t be surprised because he’s that sort of horse.

“He keeps surprising people. No one ever expected him to win a King George, but if you watch the replay, he won very cosily and was probably (running) the wrong way round.

“He’s in good shape – and you know whatever he does, he’s going to give a good account of himself.”

Al Boum Photo is seeking a third Gold Cup win
Al Boum Photo is seeking a third Gold Cup win (PA)

Nicholls thinks the Gold Cup field is a closely-matched bunch if the favourite is taken out of the equation.

He said: “It’s very competitive. Last year’s winner is the one we’ve all got to beat – but I think after that, it’s very much of a muchness. A lot of the horses have beaten each other.

“We beat Santini in the King George, and Santini is a shorter price than us for the Gold Cup, which I don’t really get. Frodon is always underestimated a little bit, but he will give a good account of himself.

“Al Boum Photo has won the last two and is the one to beat. He’s the class act, but the rest are much of a muchness, and you could get many different results.

“We’re glad to be there and that the horse has got to this point – we’re just really looking forward to him running.”

Frodon was one of a dozen horses to enjoy a racecourse spin on Tuesday morning, with Nicholls explaining: “It was just a good day out for them really.

“It’s just something you fit into their workload – we always do it every year. Some horses need a gallop more than others – they didn’t really go and have a searching, hard gallop. It was just a day out, and it came together well.

“Politologue, Bravemansgame, Frodon, Real Steel, Houx Gris, Soldier Of Love – who probably wouldn’t go to Cheltenham – Barbados Bucks, Saint Sonnet, Amour De Nuit, Duc De Genievres, Storm Arising and Threeunderthrufive were the 12. They just had a lovely day out, and everyone was happy.

“Politologue loved bowling along in front. It was just a good day out for them.”

Politologue will be defending his Cheltenham crown
Politologue will be defending his Cheltenham crown (Simon Cooper/PA)

Politologue has become something of a standing dish at the Festival and finally enjoyed his moment in the spotlight when lifting the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase last year.

The 10-year-old landed the Tingle Creek first time out this term, but finished a leg-weary second to First Flow on testing ground in Ascot’s Clarence House Chase on his most recent run.

Nicholls said: “I love this race – it’s a fantastic race. I’ve been very lucky to have some fantastic horses win it.

“Politologue winning last year was fantastic for him and everybody connected with the horse.

“This is his sixth Festival, which is amazing really – and if you’d seen him gallop this morning, he was very impressive.”

Chacun Pour Soi leads the Champion Chase betting
Chacun Pour Soi leads the Champion Chase betting (PA)

Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi is a hot favourite after three effortless wins so far this term. But Nicholls, who also plans to field Greaneteen, will not duck a challenge.

He said: “Chacun Pour Soi looks very, very smart, but he has not run at Cheltenham before and has got to act on the track. If he does, he’ll undoubtedly be hard to beat, but you should never be afraid of one.”

Duc Des Genievres is also in the mix, and Nicholls added: “He won the Arkle two years ago and has run some tidy races this year. He’s just shy of being a Grade One horse, and we need to decide whether to run him in this or run him in the Grand Annual.”

Paul Nicholls with Bravemansgame on Tuesday
Paul Nicholls with Bravemansgame on Tuesday (David Davies/PA)

Nicholls has one of the leading lights for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle in Bravemansgame, winner of the Grade One Challow Novices’ Hurdle last time in fine style. His only defeat over hurdles came at the hands of Betfair Hurdle hero Soaring Glory on his debut.

The trainer said: “The Challow as a nice race to win, and he won very nicely that day.

“His form has been really progressive. At the start of the season he was beaten a neck by Jonjo’s (O’Neill) horse (Soaring Glory), who won the Betfair Hurdle – and I was impressed with him that day, because Harry (Cobden) could hardly pull him up afterwards and he ran green.

“With each run he’s got better and better, and this is the obvious race for him.

“He worked very nicely this morning, and I’m very happy with his preparation.”

Empty stands at Cheltenham earlier this season
Empty stands at Cheltenham earlier this season (David Davies/PA)

Nicholls’ only regret is that the Festival will be limited to essential personnel only on course as coronavirus restrictions remain in place.

He added: “It’s a great meeting. It’s a shame the crowd aren’t there and owners aren’t there, because it’s such a social occasion and means so much to so many people.

“The main thing is we’re racing, there’ll be a lot of people watching it – and the racing will be as competitive as normal.”

Henderson relieved Game Spirit plan paid off for Champ

Nicky Henderson is glad his “ridiculous” idea of running Champ over two miles as a prep for the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup did not leave him with egg on his face.

Having had an interrupted season and his intended reappearance in the Denman Chase postponed by the weather, Henderson came up with the plan of running last year’s dramatic RSA winner over the minimum trip in the Game Spirit, once Altior had been ruled out.

Always prominent under Nico de Boinville, Champ exceeded nearly all expectations in finishing second to Sceau Royal and connections are now dreaming of winning the big one.

“It was an extraordinary performance in the RSA last year, reminiscent of dear old Might Bite,” said Henderson.

“I was watching what was going on up front, but then he came back into sight and swept by them. That proved one thing – his stamina.

“When we brought him in earlier this season, he was loose-schooling at Henrietta Knight’s and we could hear a noise we’d never heard before. It makes me wonder whether it had anything to do with what happened last year. Round about the second-last is where it could catch you out. It’s just a Henderson theory.”

After a wind operation, Henderson went about planning the second half of the season for Champ.

“The Cotswold Chase was his alternative, but we thought that was better for Santini, certainly in that (soft) ground, then Champ would have come in for the Denman at Newbury – on the original weekend,” he said.

“The move back a week, as commendable as it was, just interfered with plans and we decided against Altior running. Sometimes crazy ideas come into your head in the middle of the night and it occurred to me that three miles, first time out, three weeks and five days before his objective, put him in the ‘bounce factor’ bracket.

“He’s an extraordinary horse because a week before the race he was working with On The Blind Side, a three-mile hurdler who isn’t good enough for the Stayers’ Hurdle. He’s not a good work horse, but it took Champ all day to get to him.

“My assistant, Charlie Morlock, said he didn’t exactly look like a horse to run over two miles, but Champ at home and Champ on a racecourse – you wouldn’t know it was the same horse as he does nothing at home.

“I was hoping we’d see what we saw as my head was on the chopping block for this ridiculous idea if it didn’t work. It worked because he could do it, but I didn’t know where he’d finish. It went well and his jumping at that pace was exceptional. We all came away very happy and he has been fine since.”

Champ on his way to the gallops at Seven Barrows
Champ on his way to the gallops at Seven Barrows (David Davies/PA)

Henderson confirmed De Boinville will stay on Champ for the Gold Cup, with Aidan Coleman riding last year’s runner-up Santini.

“Santini has had a difficult season. He started at Aintree when it was essentially a Flat race when they took the fences out. He’s a huge horse, he ran a very good race that day and in fact Frodon was behind him,” he said.

“We had no intention of running him in the King George, but there was just too much of a gap between Aintree and the Cotswold. He’s not a horse that sits still, he loves racing.

Nicky Henderson with Santini, last year's Gold Cup second
Nicky Henderson with Santini, last year’s Gold Cup second (David Davies/PA)

“Not surprisingly he found the track sharper than ideal, but it was still a good exercise for him. Then the Cotswold Chase was off, Sandown took it on but the ground was desperate. I was satisfied with him in third.”

While Champ is a much shorter price for Cheltenham, Henderson feels Santini may be going in under the radar if the ground is on the good side.

He said: “Champ’s run was obviously more eyecatching as he was running over the wrong trip. I’m very happy with Santini as it’s been a difficult winter with him. It’s not as if he’s coming in off three wins, but this is what he’s been waiting for.”

Al Boum Photo ‘in great shape’ as Gold Cup hat-trick bid looms

Willie Mullins is planning a “big bit of work” for Al Boum Photo this week as the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner continues preparations for his hat-trick bid.

The nine-year-old will attempt to join Cottage Rake, Arkle and Best Mate as a three-time winner of the blue riband, with Golden Miller the most successful in the history of the race thanks to his five victories.

Al Boum Photo will head to Cheltenham on March 19 with just one start under his belt this season, having won the Savills New Year’s Day Chase on his January return – the same route Mullins plotted for his previous victories in the Festival showpiece, which this year will be run as the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The trainer admits he did not expect Al Boum Photo to be a staying star following a novice-chase campaign back in 2018 which included a fall at the Festival and a dramatic run-out at Punchestown.

Al Boum Photo and jockey Paul Roule on the gallops on Monday morning
Al Boum Photo and jockey Paul Roule on the gallops on Monday morning (Niall Carson/PA)

Mullins said: “He’s in great shape. He worked well last week and he’s a big bit of work coming up this week.

“He’s uncomplicated, he’s very nice to train.

“I didn’t think when we were buying him we’d be in this position, or indeed the day that he ran out in Punchestown, or when he had the mishap with Ruby (Walsh) jumping the last at Cheltenham.

“He’s got a funny back history – but here he is, a double Gold Cup winner going for his third. We’re very privileged to have him.”

Champ returned to action at Newbury on Sunday
Champ returned to action at Newbury on Sunday (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

While Mullins has plenty of faith in Al Boum Photo, he is alive to the threat posed by Savills Chase winner A Plus Tard – and last year’s top three-mile novice Champ.

A Plus Tard had Mullins’ Kemboy back in second at Leopardstown over Christmas – while Nicky Henderson’s Champ impressed many when second, dropped down to two miles in Sunday’s Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

Mullins said: “I think you have to (take Champ and A Plus Tard seriously). Both are stayers, A Plus Tard is bred to stay; Champ proved that he stays all day last year, and he put in a huge performance yesterday. The two of them have put in huge performances as their prep runs.”

Willie Mullins Stable Visit
Kemboy and jockey Ruth Dudfield following a Monday morning exercise (Niall Carson/PA)

Kemboy went on to win the Irish Gold Cup this month, with stablemate Melon a well-beaten fifth. The pair are among five entries for Mullins at this stage, although neither is certain to run – with Kemboy given an alternative option in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle as well as, like Melon, the Ryanair Chase.

The Closutton trainer added: “Kemboy is there – we haven’t decided or spoken to connections yet – and Melon is there. Looking at the replay last night, we think possibly should he (Melon) go for the Ryanair? But then we are well represented in the Ryanair, so we will see.

“I’ll have to have a word with connections about where we go. There’s no hard-and-fast rules made at this stage. There’s a few bits of work to do, and who knows what’s going to happen?”

Gold Cup glory with Long Run was the stuff of dreams for Waley-Cohen

Long Run had to win a race for the ages as he surged clear of both Denman and Kauto Star to lift the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

A decade on, his name still resonates among his fellow heroes of a famed golden era of steeplechasing – as do the Corinthian achievements of father-and-son, owner-rider combination Robert and Sam Waley-Cohen.

Robert still recalls the “unimaginable” joy at seeing Long Run and Sam silence the doubters who wondered if an amateur jockey would be sufficiently adept for the most exacting of challenges, beating the very best to claim National Hunt racing’s greatest prize.

The Waley-Cohens and trainer Nicky Henderson (right) welcome Long Run home to Lambourn after his Gold Cup glory
The Waley-Cohens and trainer Nicky Henderson (right) welcome Long Run home to Lambourn after his Gold Cup glory (Ben Birchall/PA)

Waley-Cohen senior never harboured any such qualms – and vindication was emphatic.

Long Run had interrupted Kauto Star’s sequence of five King George VI Chase victories in six years – in an edition of the Kempton showpiece delayed three weeks by a frozen Christmas – and would go on to succeed Paul Nicholls’ great on Boxing Day 2012, too.

At the age of just six, his CV also included two Grade One victories in his native France and another on British debut in the 2009 Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton.

It was enough to send Long Run off favourite in his first Gold Cup to beat a mighty old guard comprising the three winners of four preceding renewals – dual hero Kauto Star, stablemate Denman and title-holder Imperial Commander.

Nonetheless, as the Waley-Cohens gathered to cheer on their horse and their man, there were thousands yet to be convinced about Long Run’s suitability to Cheltenham – where he had been beaten on his two previous visits, third in both the RSA Chase 12 months earlier and then the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Waley-Cohen senior begged to differ.

Long Run (middle) left the mighty Denman ad Kauto Star in his wake as he won the 2011 Gold Cup
Long Run (middle) left the mighty Denman ad Kauto Star in his wake as he won the 2011 Gold Cup (David Davies/PA)

“I wasn’t at all concerned (about Cheltenham) – and unlike many others, I wasn’t at all concerned about his rider’s ability to handle it, although the pressure was considerable,” he said.

“He was more than capable of doing a good job.”

Ten years on, however, he is prepared to admit to a momentary consternation as to whether Long Run could match Nicholls’ two superstars as they joined battle ahead of him leaving Cheltenham’s back straight.

“There were definitely some concerns during the race, particularly when Kauto Star and Denman took each other on coming down the hill,” he said.

“As it turned out, that was probably to our advantage – they probably overdid it coming down the hill. But I thought ‘Oh no, we’re not quite good enough to get to them’ – then as he turned the corner and started to gain on them and jumped the second-last so well, I did shout extremely loudly.”

He was not alone.

“The noise from the place we were in was unbelievable from there to the line – we couldn’t quite believe what we’d just seen,” Waley-Cohen added.

“It was before the construction of the Princess Royal Stand, so we were in one of those ghastly little boxes in that old space – a whole bunch of us and a lot of Sam’s friends, including his then fiancee now wife.

“It was absolutely fantastic. It is the biggest National Hunt race there is – to win that with your horse and your son on board is just unimaginable.”

Yet he knew all along that – albeit with history against them – Long Run and his jockey had the credentials to become, respectively, the first six-year-old Gold Cup winner for almost half-a-century and first amateur to succeed since 1981.

“I thought he had every chance, and indeed he started favourite,” he said, referencing other factors behind Long Run’s near five-length defeat in handicap company four months earlier.

“It wasn’t that Cheltenham wasn’t his course, but two and a half miles wasn’t his trip – certainly not that early in the season.

“When he ran in the RSA, (trainer) Nicky (Henderson) said he was over the top by then. He’d been running in top-class races in France before he came over.

“He won Grade One races in five consecutive years, which is exceptional. He beat Denman, Kauto Star and Imperial Commander – the winners of umpteen Gold Cups before him – which was amazing.

“He’d also done something quite extraordinary the year before. As a three-year-old, he won the Grade One three-year-old hurdle in France, and as a four-year-old he won the Grade One four-year-old chase in France – which no other horse had ever done, and still hasn’t.

“Then he came over as a four-year-old, and in his first race in England he won the Feltham – so he’s the only four-year-old to have won two Grade One races in two different countries.”

Long Run was not, however, able to add a second Gold Cup – having to settle for third in both 2012 and 2013.

Waley-Cohen said: “The only thing I’ve never understood and never will, just to show how horses are not machines and how they break your heart, is how he didn’t win the Gold Cup the following year.

“Everything was going his way; Sam produced him perfectly, and he got beaten by two horses who had never beaten him on any other occasion.”

Long Run cannot tell us why, of course, either – but at the age of 16, five years after his retirement, he is still compensating his owner with a larger-than-life presence at their home on the Warwickshire-Oxfordshire border.

“He’s very much still around – he’s still with us at Upton,” said Waley-Cohen.

“We decided to allow him have a quite normal life, enjoying going out – he doesn’t like hunting, because he can’t understand why things don’t happen a bit quicker.

“He’s happy to stand around for 20 minutes, then he says ‘Right, time for something to happen now!’

“I didn’t want to train him for dressage or to go showing – he’s much too impatient to go showing. We did actually take him once to show off Gold Cup winners at Cheltenham, and he was a complete nightmare – he bounced around the paddock as though he was going to run in a race.

“My eldest son Marcus rides him a lot around the farm, and he enjoys going with the kids. He’s like an old pro going away from home, and an absolute idiot racehorse going back towards home!”

The memories endure for the Waley-Cohens, and the future promises much – including perhaps at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, and in part thanks to Long Run’s lineage.

Long Run's half-sister Liberthine was a winner over the big fences at Aintree, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen in the 2006 Topham
Long Run’s half-sister Liberthine was a winner over the big fences at Aintree, ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen in the 2006 Topham (Gareth Copley/PA)

Waley-Cohen bought him when he started to show great promise for owner Marie-Christine Gabeur and maestro French trainer Guillaume Macaire – having previously acquired Long Run’s half-sister Liberthine from the same source.

She went on to be a Cheltenham Festival winner and also mastered Aintree’s fences as heroine of the 2006 Topham Chase.

Her son Sure Touch won his bumper debut at Wincanton in January, and on Gold Cup day on March 19 the first edition of Cheltenham’s newest race – the Liberthine Mares Chase – will honour her.

The competition will be formidable, but Waley-Cohen will be trying to win it 10 years on from Long Run’s triumph.

“They’re both bred by Madame Benoit Gabeur,” he said of Long Run and Liberthine.

“Benoit also bred (dual Champion Chase winner) Master Minded, but I think they are all in his wife’s name.

“I bought Liberthine, who is five or six years older – she was Sam’s first ever winner against professionals in a novice chase at Stratford – (and then) Long Run was the fourth I bought out of the mare.

Elusive Belle (right) may bid to mark the 10th anniversary of Long Run's Gold Cup glory in style at Cheltenham this year
Elusive Belle (right) may bid to mark the 10th anniversary of Long Run’s Gold Cup glory in style at Cheltenham this year (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Sure Touch won his bumper. Liberthine’s first foal won black type, and her second foal won a bumper – both fillies, both with foals in the yard now.

“She’s now retired, but she’s a granny.”

There will be no Cheltenham challenge this spring for Sure Touch, as Waley-Cohen nurtures a bright future for the five-year-old, but he could yet be double-handed in pursuit of the race named after Long Run’s sibling, on the anniversary of his Gold Cup glory.

“I won’t run Sure Touch (in the Champion Bumper), because I think it’s too tough a race for horses you hope have a very good future,” he said.

“But I definitely will run, if I possibly can, two or three others (at Cheltenham).”

Among them, Elusive Belle and Lust For Glory are contenders in the Liberthine – and although currently outsiders behind Irish big-hitters such as Elimay, no one will treasure victory more than their owner.

Covid-19 restrictions will prevent his son Sam from riding unless the current suspension of amateur jockeys lapses – but the Waley-Cohens may nonetheless yet be able to celebrate again on Gold Cup day 2021.

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.”

Al Boum Photo headlines Gold Cup contenders

Dual winner Al Boum Photo heads 41 entries for this year’s Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Willie Mullins’ nine-year-old enjoyed his usual preparation recently with a straightforward victory at Tramore and will head straight to Prestbury Park in his bid to emulate the likes of Arkle, Best Mate and Golden Miller as a three-time winner of the blue-riband event.

Mullins has a host of other contenders for the showpiece event on March 19, including Kemboy, Melon and Allaho, who were second, third and fourth respectively in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown.

The winner of that race was Henry de Bromhead’s A Plus Tard, already a Cheltenham Festival winner in the past and who was placed in the Ryanair last year.

However, the betting indicates at the moment De Bromhead has an even better chance with Minella Indo, who was caught close home in the RSA Chase last season but was an early faller in the Savills Chase.

It was Nicky Henderson’s Champ who flew up the hill to catch him in the RSA and although he has not run since, he remains one of the leading contenders for the Gold Cup.

Champ flew up the hill in the RSA to catch Minella Indo and Allaho
Champ flew up the hill in the RSA to catch Minella Indo and Allaho (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Henderson also has last year’s narrow runner-up Santini, winless in two outings so far this season, while Gordon Elliott is keen to get another run into Delta Work, Samcro and Presenting Percy after they failed to trouble the judge over Christmas.

Frodon booked his spot in the Gold Cup when making all the running in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day under Bryony Frost and has been entered by Paul Nicholls along with Cyrname and Real Steel.

Waiting Patiently ran a fine race for North Yorkshire trainer Ruth Jefferson at Kempton to chase Frodon home, on what was his first racecourse appearance in over a year.

Outlining options for her stable star, Jefferson said: “Waiting Patiently is very well at home and has come out of the King George absolutely bouncing.

“We have decided to enter him in all of the possible targets at the Cheltenham Festival just to keep our options open – at least for now. The Champion Chase, Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup are all championship races and it just makes sense at this stage to keep him in all three.

Waiting Patiently will have plenty of options at Cheltenham
Waiting Patiently will have plenty of options at Cheltenham (Julian Herbert/PA)

“We still don’t know how far he will be dropped back down in trip so the Champion Chase comes into the equation and he has got an entry for that.

“The Ryanair Chase is obviously another race to consider, whilst the Gold Cup, given these uncertain times, could be an interesting race.

“With so much going on, entering in all three races just keeps our options open and then we’re not tied down about having to go for one particular race.

“He will probably run again before Cheltenham, but where we go is something we are still discussing. The Ascot Chase was originally the race I had pencilled him in for, but I don’t know whether that will then be too close to Cheltenham and it therefore becomes difficult to run in both.

“With that in mind, I am not sure where we will go next at the moment, but I would like to get another run into him before Cheltenham.”

Bristol De Mai won his third Betfair Chase in November and may have another crack at a race in which he finished third in 2019 before possibly heading for the Grand National.

Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies said: “Bristol De Mai is fine, he has just been ticking over since Haydock so he is fresh and well.

“He didn’t win this Betfair Chase by as far as his others, but it was a very classy field he beat and he did it well.

“I don’t know whether he goes to the Cotswold Chase. He could go there or wait. It’s a bit up in the air.

“I would like to look at the Gold Cup, but if all the others turn up we might side-step it and go for the National.

“He was third in it (Gold Cup) before and he is right up there on ratings. He has been to the Gold Cup a few times, but has not won it yet. If he goes there hopefully he can prove them all wrong this year.”

Saint Calvados, Lostintranslation, Native River and Imperial Aura and among a host of other interesting possibles.

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.”