CHEVELEY Park Stud director Richard Thompson insists he would be “very comfortable” if A Plus Tard were to defend his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown without the aid of another run.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge was a brilliant winner of the Prestbury Park blue riband last season, but little has gone right for him since.
The nine-year-old was found to be under the weather after being pulled up when bidding for back-to-back wins in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November and was withdrawn on the morning of last month’s Savills Chase at Leopardstown after he was found to have knocked a joint.
“We flew over for the Savills Chase and it was hard to take in the moment, but you’ve got to do right by the horse and there was obviously no way we were willing to risk him,” said Thompson.
“His season has been a bit flat so far, but we very much hope he’s back on course for Cheltenham.”
A return to Leopardstown for next month’s Irish Gold Cup is a possibility – but while a final decision will rest with de Bromhead, Thompson is favouring heading straight to the Cotswolds in March.
He added: “I don’t think it was a serious problem at all really, that was the word I got, so we’ll see where he is. He might run in the Irish Gold Cup, but that’s 50/50 I think.
“I’d probably rather on balance go straight to Cheltenham, but I’ll leave it to Henry. If he thinks he should get another run into him, then of course it’s his decision.
“I’d be very comfortable not having a run before Cheltenham, that would be my personal view for what it’s worth.”
It has been a largely disappointing campaign for Cheveley Park so far, with dual Ryanair Chase winner Allaho and Sir Gerhard both failing to make it the track to date.
Thompson, however, is philosophical, saying: “Last year we won nine Grade 1s, including three at Cheltenham and the Gold Cup. It was never going to last that type of success – it’s impossible.”
A Plus Tard’s stablemate Envoi Allen provided the team with another top-level success in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal in October, but subsequently finished last in the King George at Kempton.
While plans for the nine-year-old are fluid, Thompson raised the possibility of sidestepping in Cheltenham in favour of a spring appearance at Aintree.
He said: “He made a mistake and nearly unseated Rachael (Blackmore) early on in the King George and never got into the race.
“The ground was tacky and he came back tired and a bit stiff. There was never a time when you thought he had a chance of being in the shake-up, that was the disappointing thing.
“He beat Conflated and Kemboy at Down Royal, who were first and second in the Savills Chase.
“We might even miss Cheltenham with him – we could go to Aintree instead. We could run him before Cheltenham. The Irish Gold Cup is an option for him as well, of course.”
Thompson went on to provide an update on Allaho’s well being, with hopes high that he will be fit enough to bid for a third Ryanair Chase in little over nine weeks’ time.
“I think he’s in good shape and I think Willie (Mullins) is looking to go straight to Cheltenham with him. At the moment that’s the plan,” Thompson added.
“He’s very much on course to go to Cheltenham. If he can go there having a chance of winning the Ryanair for a third time, that would be a hell of an achievement.”