The Cheltenham Gold Cup champion A Plus Tard is a racehorse that has been lightly raced in the past, and that looks set to be the case again in 2022 with Henry de Bromhead waiting until November to hand his prized asset a maiden start.
In four of his completed seasons, the eight-year-old has run just three times, and it seems likely that a similarly thin schedule will be detailed for the three-miler during the 2022-23 campaign.
That would mean a run-out in Ireland before Christmas is unlikely… although a favourite hunting ground could be the target next month.
Up for the Chase
The Irish raider has been installed as the 4/5 favourite for a Grade 1 chase at Haydock Park in November, and those with a penchant for a bet on horse racing will remember just how well he ran in winning the same race the best part of a year ago.
An 11/10 favourite with the bookies for the 2021 renewal, most horse racing predictions expected Rachael Blackmore to guide A Plus Tard to victory, but it was the manner of his win – a 22-length demolition of a decent field – that was most captivating.
A defeat to Galvin next time out in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown did little to dampen expectations, and few eyebrows were raised when Blackmore became the first female jockey in history to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard A Plus Tard the following March.
A Plus Tard and Rachael Blackmore are Cheltenham Gold Cup heroes! ?? pic.twitter.com/BOI6kJPIQD— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) March 18, 2022
As is customary, the horse has enjoyed a laidback summer and autumn off, but De Bromhead will be taking him up through the gears again ahead of a renewal which has a long history of repeat champions.
The likes of Kauto Star, Cue Card, Silviniaco Conti and Bristol De Mai have all won the Haydock chase on multiple occasions, and so the omens are strong for yet another Grade 1 victory for A Plus Tard… assuming he comes back from his hiatus with his usual spark, of course.
One horse that could challenge A Plus Tard’s supremacy as the premier three-miler in the UK and Ireland is L’Homme Presse.
The French powerhouse, trained by Venetia Williams, enjoyed a five-race winning streak during the 2021/22 campaign – a run which included a 10-length triumph in the Dipper Novices’ Chase and a handsome win in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
The seven-year-old came unstuck in his final race of the season in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, but that was run on slightly firmer ground than was ideal and at the notoriously-sharp Aintree to boot.
On the softer ground and at a slower-paced course like Haydock, L’Homme Presse would be expected to give a thorough examination of A Plus Tard’s early season credentials, and that tussle could lay the foundation for an outstanding rivalry in the next year or so.
There are other notable performers listed in the ante-post market for the Haydock chase. Ahoy Senor defeated L’Homme Presse in that edition of the Mildmay, while Protektorat was a game third in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the spring.
But can any of these pretenders unseat A Plus Tard, the current king of the three-mile chase?