Cheltenham looms for Aspire Tower

Aspire Tower is likely to head straight to Cheltenham for the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Henry de Bromhead’s five-year-old finished second at the Festival last March in the Triumph Hurdle to Burning Victory.

This season, he began by beating Abacadabras at Down Royal before running a meritorious race when second to Sharjah at Leopardstown over Christmas.

He does hold an entry at the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend, but will not be taking it up.

“Aspire Tower will probably go straight to Cheltenham,” said De Bromhead.

“He’s still a baby, so we backed off him since Christmas – he’s filling out again and looks brilliant.”

Last season’s Arkle winner Put The Kettle One may run in the inaugural mares’ chase – but will also have an entry in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

She won at Cheltenham in November before finishing third to Chacun Pour Soi last time out.

“Put The Kettle On didn’t get an entry at Leopardstown and is aiming for the spring as well,” said De Bromhead.

“We’ll probably enter her in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares Chase (over two and a half miles) at Cheltenham, as well as the Champion Chase.

“You could argue her form is much better over two miles, but I think we should definitely have her entered in it (the mares’ chase).”

Put The Kettle On set to tackle Altior at Kempton

Henry de Bromhead is undeterred by the prospect of taking on Altior with his Arkle winner Put The Kettle On in Kempton’s Desert Orchid Chase.

The mare returned with a gutsy win in the Shloer Chase back at Cheltenham in November, and is set for another trip across the Irish Sea from De Bromhead’s County Waterford base on December 27.

“I’d say we’re pretty much going there – the last time I spoke with the owners we pretty much confirmed it, and I don’t see any reason to change, but obviously we’d have preferred Altior to have run in the Tingle Creek,” said De Bromhead.

“Her novice campaign was brilliant. She came from the summer season, and plenty have done it, but you are always under the radar when you do that. We had Notebook in the race as well, and he had won two Grade Ones on his way to the Arkle, so everyone was focused on him.

“To be fair to the mare, she’d won over course and distance and she loves it there. She had a fantastic year – and to go back and put up such a tough performance in the Shloer, she’s brilliant, and we’re lucky to have her.

“She’s very tough – bar coming to the last I could never see her winning the Shloer, but it’s testament to how tough she is and a brilliant ride from Aidan (Coleman).

“He has a great partnership with her, so he’ll be riding her again.”

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Special Tiara was twice a winner of the Desert Orchid Chase
Special Tiara was twice a winner of the Desert Orchid Chase (John Walton/PA)

Put The Kettle On is yet another classy two-mile chaser off the De Bromhead conveyor belt which includes two champion chasers in Sizing Europe and Special Tiara, twice a winner of the Desert Orchid.

He added: “Special Tiara was brilliant. The one that stands out is when Barry Geraghty rode him (2014) – the jumps the pair of them put in together were phenomenal really.

“There were ooos and ahhs from the crowd – they were incredible. He was brilliant, he won a Champion Chase and was placed year after year.”

Closer to home, De Bromhead will also be overseeing a strong raiding party on Leopardstown’s big Christmas meeting. But stable star Honeysuckle will not be there, instead waiting for the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Honeysuckle will not be running over Christmas
Honeysuckle will not be running over Christmas (PA Wire)

“Honeysuckle had the entry for Christmas, but it was only in case something silly happened in the Hatton’s Grace,” added De Bromhead.

“She’s definitely aiming towards the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Festival.

“Notebook will run – all being well he’s in great form and we’ll have a go at him (Chacun Pour Soi) on the 27th at Leopardstown (Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase).

“I had to put his run at Cheltenham down to how hard a race he had in the Irish Arkle with Cash Back, because they both tailed off.

“He came back all guns blazing the other day at Naas. I know he can jump a little right, but I don’t think you can blame his run in the Arkle just on that.

“He has run twice there and was possibly out of his depth the first year over hurdles, so I don’t want to say he doesn’t suit Cheltenham – I just think it was the hard race in the Irish Arkle.

“He was a dual Grade One winner last year, so he’d be bang there with the other good two-milers I’ve trained. He’s got that crazy streak jumping that a lot seem to have, and it really suits him. He’s rated over 160 now, so he’s bang there with them.”

With Minella Indo a hot favourite for the Savills Chase over three miles, he is likely to be joined by stablemate A Plus Tard.

“It’s something I just need to confirm with his owners, but the last time we spoke we were thinking of stepping him up in trip,” De Bromhead said of the latter.

“We’ll be monitoring the ground as well – if it was very soft we might reconsider the two-mile race he won last year.

“At the moment, we’re learning towards the three-mile race.”

Kettle too hot for Shloer Chase rivals

Last season’s Arkle winner Put The Kettle On maintained her unbeaten record at Cheltenham when collaring Duc Des Genievres in the Shloer Chase.

Normally a front-runner, Put The Kettle On’s rider Aidan Coleman was content to let Duc Des Genievres set a brisk early pace on his first run for Paul Nicholls, but Put The Kettle On and Defi Du Seuil closed in coming down the hill.

Harry Cobden kicked again on Duc De Genievres and looked sure to hold on, but Henry de Bromhead’s mare stuck to her task gamely and the 7-4 chance ended up winning going away by a length and a quarter.

The winner was given a 12-1 quote by Coral for the Champion Chase in March.

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Odds-on favourite Defi Du Seuil was pulled up early in the straight, having been behind in the early stages following a mistake at the first, before finding little for pressure at the finish.

Coleman said: “She has done very well. She has got a massive heart this filly as she hated the ground. She was never happy the whole way.

“It was a testament to her ability and her attitude as it was a hard race for her. Since November last year, she has only run once, so she might be a touch rusty. When I got on top, I won well.

“If you look at the form of the Arkle Trial (that Put The Kettle On won last year) it doesn’t stand up, but if you look at the Arkle, it is probably strong form.

“She must be in a good place to win if after two fences I’m not happy, as it is a long way to go in a championship race. The previous Arkle winner was second and everyone else was in another parish, so fair play to her.

“Yes, she has three from three here, but I think that is coincidence – if they were run anywhere else she would have won. She has won on all sorts of tracks, but if you are going to like a course, and especially be a two-miler, the Old Course at Cheltenham is the place to be, isn’t it?

“I think she can (take the step up to be a Queen Mother horse). Whether that means winning or being competitive, time will tell.

“She is value for more today, considering the feel I got all the way round. She will be there in the money, whether she is first or fourth you don’t know. She is a credit to connections.”

Put The Kettle On with Aidan Coleman
Put The Kettle On with Aidan Coleman (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Nicholls said of the second: “I was a bit nervous about the ground. I think on better ground he would finish better.

“A flatter track would suit him better, but I wasn’t expecting that as I didn’t know what to expect. I would say watching that, slightly better ground, he would bounce off it. It was an almighty run.”

Philip Hobbs said of Defi Du Seuil: “He just got very tired very quickly after jumping the second last and Dickie (Richard Johnson) just thought there was no point after that jumping the last, but he seems to be OK after the race.”

Johnson added: “Defi du Seuil was going well. However, he was very tired jumping the second last. I just thought it was the right thing to do to pull him up after that, but he does seem to be fine after the race.”

Defi to defend Shloer title

Defi Du Seuil faces five rivals as his bids for a second win in Cheltenham’s Shloer Chase.

Philip Hobbs’ stable star is reappearing after a mysterious flop in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in March when it appeared he had been left with little more than a penalty kick following the late withdrawals of Altior and Chacun Pour Soi.

However, in just about the only disappointment for the now-retired jockey Barry Geraghty during the 2020 Festival, Defi Du Seuil never looked like winning at any stage and was only fourth to Politologue.

Previously last season, Defi Du Seuil had won Sunday’s race – beating Politologue – the Tingle Creek and the Clarence House, taking his Grade One tally over hurdles and fences to seven.

He faces last year’s impressive Arkle winner Put The Kettle On, from Henry de Bromhead’s yard, who won at this meeting 12 months ago and never ran again before the Festival.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Riders Onthe Storm, so impressive in the Ascot Chase but a faller in the Ryanair, is yet another Grade One winner in attendance.

Brian Ellison’s Forest Bihan reappears for the first time since winning last season’s Old Roan Chase at Aintree, with injury keeping him off the track, while Harry Whittington’s Rouge Vif is back at Cheltenham after an impressive win in a handicap last month.

Duc Des Genievres, the Arkle winner in 2019 who is having his first run for Paul Nicholls, completes the field.

Twiston-Davies’ Ballyandy heads the weights in the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle.

Second to Sceau Royal, who has franked the form since, in the Welsh Champion Hurdle on his first run of the campaign, he is giving upwards of 8lb to all his rivals.

They include Alan King’s pair Edwardstone and Harambe, Tom Lacey’s Sebastopol, Paul Nicholls’ Thyme White and Sir Psycho and the sole Irish runner Tudor City.

Ellison’s Cormier, Dan Skelton’s Proschema and the Olly Murphy duo of Hunters Call and Strong Glance are others fancied in a strong heat.

Colin Tizzard’s promising The Big Breakaway is scheduled to have his first run over fences in the opening Novices’ Chase.

Put The Kettle On set for return to Cheltenham

Put The Kettle On is set to kick off her campaign in Sunday’s Shloer Chase at Cheltenham.

Henry de Bromhead’s six-year-old posted a career-best effort when springing a 16-1 surprise in the Arkle at the Festival in March, adding to a previous success over two miles at Cheltenham’s Open meeting last year.

Put The Kettle On is again due to line up at the fixture, with the mare counting among seven entries for the Grade Two heat.

De Bromhead said: “She’s in great form and is due to go over to Cheltenham for the Shloer Chase. She seems to love it over there, so she’s going over there this weekend.

“She’s in mighty form, working well, so we’re looking forward to that.”

Sceau Royal, winner of Saturday’s Elite Hurdle for Alan King, could switch back to fences for the race, while the Philip Hobbs-trained Defi Du Seuil, who was a huge disappointment in the Champion Chase in the spring, is in line make his seasonal bow.

Rouge Vif was a winner at last month’s Showcase meeting and could return to Cheltenham for Harry Whittington, with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ascot Chase hero Riders Onthe Storm, the Brian Ellison-trained Forest Bihan and 2019 Arkle winner Duc Des Genievres, who is now with Paul Nicholls, completing the possibles.