Trainer Henry de Bromhead admits he has “plenty to fear” as his superstar chaser A Plus Tard bids to defend his crown in the first Grade One chase of the season in Britain – the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park this weekend (Saturday 19th November).
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned eight year old lit up the Merseyside track under Rachael Blackmore 12 months ago with a 22-length success over Royal Pagaille, before the pair went on to defeat stablemate and defending champion Minella Indo by 15 lengths in chasing’s Blue Riband, the Grade One Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Festival™.
A Plus Tard is set to face a small but select field of up to four rivals as he bids to win the extended three miles and a furlong showpiece for the second year running. His likely opponents include the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup third Protektorat and Bristol de Mai, who his landed three of the latest five renewals of the Betfair Chase.
De Bromhead is expecting a tough race for his charge as he bids to become the fifth multiple winner of the £200,000 contest since its establishment in 2005 following Bristol de Mai (2017, 2018, 2020), Cue Card (2013, 2015, 2016), Silviniaco Conti (2012, 2014) and the great Kauto Star (2006, 2007, 2009, 2011).
Speaking at an online press conference organised by The Jockey Club today, the County Waterford handler said: “A Plus Tard seems in great form and is working really well. Rachael (Blackmore) schooled him this morning and touch wood he jumped really well so all seems good at the moment.
“There is plenty to fear from our rivals for sure, I always think there’s something to fear. Bristol de Mai is a three-time winner of the race and even when you hear what Frodon is priced at (20-1 with Betfair) – they’re all high-class horses.
“It’s a Grade One race and I fear them all to be honest. Protektorat ran really well in the Gold Cup so it should be a great race.
“He was our first ever runner at Haydock Park 12 months ago, so it was a nice way to start! We were looked after really well and thankfully everything went smoothly and he won really well on the day.
“we’ll look at Leopardstown over Christmas after this all being well and then the Cheltenham Gold Cup - that’s the plan. He had a great season last year and I think that makes sense. He has got to go left-handed, so they look the obvious races for him.”
A Plus Tard has proven to be remarkably versatile during his career, winning prestigious prizes at both two miles and two and a half miles over fences before settling on staying chasing and his trainer feels he’s strengthened further since last season.
De Bromhead continued: “I got him completely wrong to be honest! I suppose he confused us a little bit at Leopardstown when he defeated Chacun Pour Soi in a Grade One over two miles, but he’s just so classy that he seems to handle any trip.
“When I first got him I just wanted to win races, so I didn’t really see him as a three-miler and the year he won the Savills (2020) he was entered in the two-mile race as well so we only really decided a few days before that we’d try him over three and we haven’t looked back since.
“I remember when he went off favourite for the Ryanair Chase in 2020 he just looked as though he lacked a gear between the second last and the last at Cheltenham and I suppose I thought he was more of a three-miler after that.
“It was Richard Thompson (son of Cheveley Park Stud’s owner Patricia Thompson) who first mentioned going for the Betfair Chase (in 2021) after the Cheltenham Festival the previous year, when he finished second to Minella Indo in the Gold Cup.
“We all felt he needed to go left-handed and he and Chris Richardson (Managing Director of Cheveley Park Stud) suggested it and it seemed a great idea.
“We feel he’s done plenty, so we’re happy with him. I suppose when you’re only running these horses three or four times a year you want these runs to count, so we’d hope he’s as well as he was last year and fingers crossed for a nice run.
“Physically he looks an even stronger horse but Saturday will tell us a lot.”
Barry Orr from Betfair commented: “We’re really looking forward to the big race on Saturday and A Plus Tard is the star attraction. It’s great when you get a Gold Cup winner running in the race and he’s a 2-5 favourite to repeat last year’s fantastic victory.
“We’ve had some terrific winners of the Betfair Chase over the years and each of A Plus Tard’s four rivals all have a big task on their hooves if they are to defeat him.”
Kirkland Tellwright, Clerk of the Course at Haydock Park, provided the following update on the ground ahead of Saturday’s fixture: “The going today is Good To Soft, Soft in places on the chase course and Good To Soft on the hurdle course.
“We’ve got wet days forecast on Tuesday and Thursday and if the forecast is accurate, we’ll certainly not be any quicker than we are now and we might be a bit easier.”
Betfair Chase (Grade 1) 3m 1f 125y
Haydock Park – Saturday 19th November
- A Plus Tard (FR) 8 11 10 Cheveley Park Stud Henry de Bromhead Ireland
- Bristol de Mai (FR) 11 11 10 Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Nigel Twiston-Davies
- Eldorado Allen (FR) 8 11 10 J P Romans & Terry Warner Joe Tizzard
- Frodon (FR) 10 11 10 Mr P. J. Vogt Paul Nicholls Bryony Frost
- Protektorat (FR) 7 11 10 Sir A Ferguson G Mason J Hales & L Hales Dan Skelton Harry Skelton
Latest odds from sponsor Betfair: 2-5 A Plus Tard; 10-3 Protektorat; 7-1 Bristol de Mai; 12-1 Eldorado Allen; 20-1 Frodon