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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.”

Leopardstown set to serve up Savills cracker

What looks set to be one of the races of the season so far is in prospect at Leopardstown on Monday, with a field of 14 declared for the Savills Chase.

The three-mile feature sees any number of Gold Cup contenders in action, with the Henry de Bromhead-trained Minella Indo favourite to stretch his unbeaten record over fences to three in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.

But dangers abound, including the Gordon Elliott-trained trio of Samcro, Presenting Percy and Delta Work – who bids to defend his crown under Jack Kennedy.

Willie Mullins has a team of five – featuring 2018 winner Kemboy, Allaho, Easy Game, Melon and Tornado Flyer.

De Bromhead also runs A Plus Tard and Balko Des Flos, with Joseph O’Brien saddling Fakir D’oudairies and Jessica Harrington sending out Jett.

Noel Meade’s Tout Est Permis completes the high-class line-up.

Minella Indo is one of 20 still in hunt for Savills glory

Minella Indo tops 20 possibles for next week’s Savills Chase, the feature event on the penultimate day of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge has impressed with two comfortable victories so far this term, after having victory in last season’s RSA Chase at Cheltenham snatched away in the shadow of the post by the flying finish of Champ.

Minella Indo heads the ante-post markets for next week’s three-mile contest, in which De Bromhead has also confirmed King George VI Chase possible Monalee – along with A Plus Tard, who could step back up in trip, and Balko Des Flos.

Gordon Elliott has a strong potential hand with his six-strong team currently including Presenting Percy, The Storyteller, Samcro and defending champion Delta Work.

Kemboy showed some of his old sparkle when second to Presenting Percy at Thurles on his return – and trainer Willie Mullins is another with multiple options, and has Allaho and Melon among his six entries.

Elliott has given The Storyteller an alternative over the smaller obstacles in the other Grade One on the card, the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle, with Sire Du Berlais and Fury Road other eye-catching possibles for him.

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Mullins is well represented again, with last year’s fourth Barcardys in his trio, while Olly Murphy’s British raider Thomas Darby also features among 13 entries.

The final day of the fixture has two Grade One contests, with Mullins’ Saint Roi headlining eight contenders for the Matheson Hurdle.

Last year’s victor Sharjah and Grade One winner Saldier strengthen the Closutton trainer’s team – but Elliott’s Abacadabras is the main challenger, having edged out Saint Roi by a neck in the Morgiana last time.

A top-class field is in prospect for the Neville Hotels Novices Chase, with Mullins’ Monkfish bidding for Grade One honours after an impressive fencing bow.

He renews rivalry with Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition, whom he just beat in last term’s Albert Barlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Elliott’s Pencilfulloflead is another name of note among 10 in contention.

Clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer reports the ground on the hurdles track for the final two days of the meeting to be on the softer side – but there is a possibility of watering on the chase course, with a dry forecast in prospect.

He said: “The wooden stick is only a guide, as much as a going description is only an opinion.

“What we can tell you is there is plenty of juice in the track right now.

“The chase track is good to yielding, the hurdle track for days one and two is mainly yielding, a little bit slower in places – yielding, yielding to soft in places.

“The hurdle track is on the inner lines for days three and four – and it’s more in the yielding to soft side, slower ground on the inside lines.”

That is not the case at present on parts of the chase track, however.

“There’s a bit of light rain this morning (Monday) and 10 millimetres in recent days,” Wyer added.

“The forecast in the immediate future is generally dry, a little showery, but generally dry.

“On that basis we are monitoring the situation regarding any watering on the chase track. If any watering is needed, it will be mainly from the winning post round to the three-mile start, just beyond the 10-furlong starting area.

“We’re considering options in that regard, but we’re happy where we are at this stage.”

Minella Indo takes next step on road to Cheltenham

Cheltenham Gold Cup contender Minella Indo is the star attraction in the BetVictor Make Your Best Bet Chase at Navan on Sunday.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge won twice at Grade One level over hurdles, including victory in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in 2019, and came close to doubling his tally at the showpiece meeting when mowed down late by Champ in last season’s RSA Chase.

Having made a foot-perfect start to the current campaign in a Grade Three contest at Wexford last month, Minella Indo is the 8-1 third-favourite for the Gold Cup in March, behind dual winner Al Boum Photo and last season’s runner-up Santini.

Those odds are likely to contract further if he can see off his three rivals in this weekend’s three-mile Grade Two.

“He’s in good form and hopefully he’ll run well,” said De Bromhead.

“It was lovely the way he did it in Wexford and hopefully this is another nice race for him. We’ll see how he gets on.”

Asked whether the Savills Chase at Leopardstown could be his next objective, the trainer added: “We’ll see how Sunday goes before we think about where we go afterwards.”

Minella Indo is sure to be a warm order, with Gordon Elliott’s Ravenhill, the Willie Mullins-trained Brahma Bull and Dream Conti from Noel Meade’s yard all looking to have their work cut out on ratings.

De Bromhead, jockey Rachael Blackmore and Minella Indo’s owner Barry Maloney are also represented in the Grade Three BetVictor Casino “Monksfield” Novice Hurdle, with Champagne Gold stepping up in class after impressing at Wexford four weeks ago.

De Bromhead said: “It’s a big step up for Champagne Gold. He won his maiden hurdle in Wexford and is a nice horse that works well.

“We’ll learn more about him.”

Champagne Gold’s six rivals include Elliott’s pair of Farouk D’alene and Fakiera. The Cullentra handler is bidding to win the race for a fourth time in the last five years following the recent victories of Death Duty (2016), Samcro (2017) and Fury Road (2019).

Lieutenant Command is another to consider for the bang-in-form Meade yard.

Minella Indo makes winning return at Wexford

Minella Indo made a foot-perfect start to a campaign connections hope will culminate with a tilt at Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in the M.W. Hickey Memorial Chase at Wexford.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge won twice at Grade One level over hurdles, including victory in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham in 2019, and came close to doubling his tally at the showpiece meeting when mowed down late by Champ in last season’s RSA Chase.

While dropped to Grade Three level for his reappearance, Minella Indo’s task was not straightforward, with Gordon Elliott’s Kim Muir winner Milan Native holding a race-fitness advantage following a recent narrow verdict at Galway.

The big two went at it from flag-fall, with both horses jumping soundly throughout the two-mile-seven-furlong contest.

Minella Indo’s superior class began to tell before the home turn, with the 8-13 favourite safely negotiating the remaining obstacle and passing the post 25 lengths clear in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.

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Paddy Power reacted by trimming the winner to 10-1 from 12-1 for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup next March.

De Bromhead: “I’m delighted with that – he jumped brilliant and Rachael was brilliant on him.

“He looked sharp for his first run. We got him in a bit earlier and maybe that made the difference.

“Coming away from the RSA, you’d be hoping he’d turn into a Gold Cup horse, but we’ll see and we’ll take it one race at time.

“It’s very likely he’ll go for the race at Navan now next month (Grade Two BetVictor Make Your Best Bet Chase).

“We were giving Milan Native weight and I really feared him with a run under his belt. I couldn’t be happier with our lad.”

Andy Dufresne looked the part on his chasing debut
Andy Dufresne looked the part on his chasing debut (Donal Murphy/PA)

Andy Dufresne justified odds-on favouritism in the Garry Flood Landscaping Beginners Chase.

A £330,000 purchase by owner JP McManus, the six-year-old won a Grade Two over hurdles last season and was a 1-2 shot for his debut over regulation fences under Mark Walsh.

The Gordon Elliott-trained six-year-old jumped well on the whole on his way to a seven-and-a-half-length success – and could step up to Grade One level for the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse on his next start.

“It was a good performance and very straightforward. He got close to the fourth last both times, but apart from that, he was very good,” said Elliott.

“Speaking to Mark, he said we could step him up in trip, so I’d imagine he’ll step up to two and a half miles the next day. I’ll talk to his owners, but I’d imagine he’ll go for something like the Drinmore.

“It looked like he was going better at the line than he was two out, so I’d say a step up in trip will suit him.”

Minella Indo all set for Wexford reappearance

All eyes at Wexford on Monday will be on Minella Indo, as the classy seven-year-old sets out on his second season over fences.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained gelding has shown he is a genuine top-notch performer over both hurdles and the larger obstacles, winning the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019, before finishing second to Champ in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase in March.

He looked like he was going to land a second Festival success in the latter, only for Champ to fly home and prevail by a length.

De Bromhead’s charge is set to face three rivals under Rachael Blackmore in the M.W. Hickey Memorial Chase over two miles and seven furlongs, including another Cheltenham Festival winner in the shape of Gordon Elliott’s Fulke Walwyn hero Milan Native.

De Bromhead said: “Minella Indo is in good form. He can usually be a bit slow to come to hand, so we said we’d get him out early.

“We will get him started and decide where to go after that. There is a new race for second-season novices at Navan at the end of November he could go for.”

There will also be plenty of interest in the following Garry Flood Landscaping Beginners Chase, where Elliott’s Grade Two-winning novice hurdler Andy Dufresne makes his chasing bow.