A Plus Tard and Minella Indo, the last two winners of the Gold Cup, are set to go straight to Cheltenham, Henry de Bromhead confirmed on Sunday.
A Plus Tard was a late non-runner when he got a knock on his joint when set to contest the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and de Bromhead had been weighing up a bid for the Irish Gold Cup over the same course and distance.
Speaking at Punchestown, the Waterford trainer said: “A Plus Tard seems good. We just gave him a full check over and everything seems fine. His joint seems good again now. It was just a bang he got. We’re starting afresh and aiming for March and I think we’ll go straight there.
“He needs to go left handed so the Irish Gold Cup was our only option really. We’re well able to get him ready for the day so we’ll do that.”
The Cheveley Park-owned chaser is a general 8/1 shot to defend his title in March. He will have to overcome an absence of 118 days and an out-of-sorts performance in the Betfair Chase, though he had an excuse for that run when his blood tests came back unsatisfactory in the following days.
On Minella Indo, who was a memorable winner for the Knockeen team in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore, de Bromhead said: “Minella Indo came out of Tramore really good. He seems great and I’m delighted with him. We’re delighted to see him back and I think everybody saw the reception he got and we got (at Tramore), it was incredible. It was an emotional day, a really good day.
“We’ll go straight to the Gold Cup with him now.”
Minella Indo is available to back at 25/1 to regain his Gold Cup crown but treads a recently successful path, as shown by Al Boum Photo whose sole run before both of his Gold Cup wins came in the same Tramore contest.