SLICK jumping and a turn of foot were the main reasons why A Plus Tard won the Gold Cup by an enormous 15 lengths.
Rachael Blackmore delivered A Plus Tard with a decisive burst of speed heading to the second last fence to overhaul stable companion Minella Indo at the final fence on the way to reversing the placings from last year.
There is no such thing as a slowly run Cheltenham Gold Cup and, while the early exchanges could have been quicker on another day, there was no doubting the final circuit and finishing sectionals as I have A Plus Tard just a couple of lengths short of the rating he achieved in last year’s renewal.
Furthermore, the time of this year’s race was 3.1secs faster than last year under similar conditions according to the official going description, so if the 2022 contest was slowly run then so was last year.
In my opinion, there were two factors which saw A Plus Tard (170) win so convincingly with the most important being the eight-year-old’s jumping, which was measured throughout allowing him to conserve valuable energy for the finish. The second is the run of the race suited him ideally as he possessed the sharpest turn-of-foot in the field. After all he has shown enough speed in the past to beat Chacun Pour Soi over two miles at Leopardstown.
The clock supports speed being the key factor as the Cheveley Park Stud-owned winner covered the final circuit 3.7secs faster than mares’ chase winner Elimay with the variance including a faster finishing sectional.
A Plus Tard covered the ground from the third last fence in 56.4secs compared to mares’ chase winner Elimay (141) who clocked 56.8secs, despite the son of Kapgarde covering an extra six furlongs at a stronger gallop.
If the hallmarks of a top-class chaser are a blend of stamina and speed then A Plus Tard exhibited them to perfection last week.
Minella Indo (160) faded on the climb to the line as a mistake at the final fence stopped his forward momentum and drained the last of his energy. I have the nine-year-old running slightly below his achievements at Leopardstown in February.
Protektorat (160) would have been a clear third without making a more substantial mistake than Minella Indo at the last fence and emerges with his reputation enhanced, especially given the wide trip Harry Skelton was forced to steer from the top of the hill just to reach a challenging position.
Galvin (160) was less than fluent at the two fences climbing to the top of the hill and was flat to the boards approaching the fifth last. To his credit, Davy Russell’s mount stayed on strongly down the outside of the field to be beaten far less distance than looked likely on the home turn.
Six to follow
L’homme Presse: A brilliant jumper who has the speed to be effective at two and a half miles, an attribute which will serve him well has he tackles three-mile contests at the highest level.
Mrs Milner: Can benefit from a light campaign this season to land a Grade 1 contest at Fairyhouse or Punchestown.
Corach Rambler: May have his quirks but possesses a sharp turn of foot for a staying chaser and can win another handicap chase before the season concludes.
Minella Cocooner: An accurate jumper of hurdles who has the speed to be competitive at Punchestown if dropped in trip before becoming an accomplished novice chaser next season.
Cobblers Dream: Will remain well-handicapped even if going up for his second-place finish in the Martin Pipe and has the potential to go a place better if taking in a similar grade of handicap at Aintree.
First Street: Has posted two strong performances in competitive handicaps this season and has all the attributes to win a similar contest.