IT’s a pretty good rule to keep in mind, that if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. And we needed to consider it after A Plus Tard won the Betfair Chase impressively on Saturday.

Remember Bristol De Mai was rated 173 after his 57-length defeat of Cue Card in the 2017 Betfair Chase? Cyrname rated 176 after that Ascot defeat of Altior in 2019? Hindsight may indicate that there was a degree of overreaction.

Royal Pagaille went to 166 on the back of his 14-length Tommy Whittle Chase win, in heavy ground over staying handicappers.

After Saturday’s easy win, there were even comparisons with Kauto Star for A Plus Tard. He is now Gold Cup favourite at 7/2 ahead of Minella Indo who proved too strong for him last year. He went up 2lb to a rating of 174. A pound below Minella Indo.

Rachael chose A Plus Tard for last year’s Gold Cup but it was difficult to know if that was on ability or because Minella Indo had blotted his copybook on his two previous runs.

No excuses

There were no excuses on the day – from the turn-in, Minella Indo always appeared to have the legs of his challenger, he was the strongest stayer. A Plus Tard’s Savills Chase win last year came when he reeled in Kemboy and Melon, but the feeling was that they might have gone too soon and were tiring.

Cheltenham’s final hill is littered with the ghosts of horses who failed to come up it and history says that if you fail once, you are more likely to fail again.

In 2018 Native River improved on his third place in the Gold Cup the previous year to win, but a second place previously in the four-mile National Hunt Chase had confirmed him as strong in stamina.

You have to go back to Bregawn in 1983 to find a horse placed on his first attempt to win Gold the following year, and he too stayed.

History records the other names who failed – Wayward Lad, One Man, Florida Pearl, Silviniaco Conti, Djakadam, Clan Des Obeaux.

With Monkfish sidelined, rivals from last year are few at this stage and Envoi Allen is in the same ownership. The Gold Cup doesn’t looks the stronger either.

A Plus Tard was only seven last year and may have improvement, but Minella Indo is in his prime too at a year older. It might be wiser to wait and see if Saturday’s run was a true indication of his improvement.

Drugs all clear was predictable

IT didn’t need Paul Kimmage to tweet ‘Hilarious’ to have felt neither surprise nor relief after the IHRB revealed that no ‘not permitted at any time drugs’ were found in any of the hair and bloods samples taken from the thoroughbreds at the Monasterevin premises raided by the Department of Agriculture two weeks ago.

While tests needed to be taken, results do little to clear the fumes as the trainers there were bringing horses for treatment, and were unlikely to have anything shown up. While it may be painful for those innocently implicated, it must also be remembered, it is a concern for us all if the general perception is that drug use is common.

Shishkin shirks the Tingle tussle

IT seems a long time since that memorable Tingle Creek Chase that saw Moscow Flyer take on Azertyioup and Well Chief in 2004

Remember when Kauto Star began his 2006 season by winning the Old Roan at Aintree before the Betfair Chase at Haydock and stopped off to pick up the Tingle Creek on his way to the King George in 2007?

With the perhaps predictable defection of Shishkin from the Tingle Creek next week where are we going with jump racing in Britain? Are trainers afraid to see horses beaten?

There seemed little sympathy for Nicky Henderson’s comments that the horse could not run because he was “not ready”. It’s understandable on two basic facts – the Tingle Creek is the first aim of the season for last year’s top two-mile novices and it’s the same date every year. Trainers can get horses fit at home, (Braganza, 1,439 days anyone?) He could have gone to the gallops at Newbury to work on grass last week. Perhaps that he didn’t was a warning. The yard had Chantry House fit to perform well on November 7th.

And it’s not the first time he has pulled out a horse, with little excuse, at the last minute. Comments that “he looks magnificent, he’s just missing maybe 5% that you need to have and can’t go without,” are just not the best excuse. Minella Indo wasn’t fully ready for Down Royal but made it a better race.

What was the worst that could happen – a gallant defeat? Wouldn’t it make a rematch more exciting? It’s just hard to file this away under “the horse’s welfare comes first” section of the current racing rulebook.