Cheveley Park Stud director Richard Thompson feels he is already in bonus territory ahead of the return of both Cheltenham Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard and the brilliant Allaho in the coming weeks.
Having established the Newmarket-based operation as one of Britain’s major players on the Flat, Thompson’s late father David elected to invest heavily in a relatively small number of National Hunt horses a few years ago, a decision which has paid off spectacularly.
The culmination of that enterprise came at Cheltenham in March when A Plus Tard sprinted up the famous hill to lift the blue riband in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.
The eight-year-old kicked off last season with a dominant success in the Betfair Chase at Haydock and is firmly on course defend his crown on Merseyside on November 19.
Thompson said: “A Plus Tard is in great shape and there’s only six entered at Haydock, which means there might be only four or five runners.
“We all know what happened last year – everybody left Haydock thinking ‘my God, what a performance that was’. It showed the quality of the horse and he showed it in the Gold Cup as well, obviously.
“He’s the one everybody is shooting at this year and the one everybody is saying is the number one horse, but we know things change and evolve during the course of the season.
“I’m just totally appreciative of what he achieved last year and the two fantastic days we had at Haydock and Cheltenham.
“The pinnacle of this project when we started buying National Hunt horses was to win the Gold Cup and we won it, so everything is a bonus.”
King George ‘a good target’ for Allaho
The other chasing star of the Cheveley Park team is the Willie Mullins-trained Allaho, who has been simply sensational in winning the last two editions of the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
Having successfully stepped up to three miles in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April, a tilt at the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day has been mooted and Thompson would be happy to head to Kempton.
“If he was in good shape and Willie is fine with it, of course the King George would be a good target in terms of an easier three miles, bearing in mind the Punchestown Gold Cup victory and we know what he can do from the front,” he added.
“There’s a couple of races coming up in mid-November, so hopefully we might be able to see him in action in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Thompson also revealed dual Cheltenham Festival winner Sir Gerhard is more likely to embark on a novice chasing campaign than remain over hurdles, although a final decision has yet to be made.
He said: “The last time I spoke to Willie he was edging more towards chasing – that was probably about a week ago, so we’ll see.
“At the end of the day Willie is the boss and we’ll listen to him very closely and see what he recommends. I’m sure we’ll find out very soon.
“As I’ve said, I think we’re in bonus territory big time after what we experienced last season and the season before.
“Last season we won nine Grade Ones in total, including a couple of the really big ones, so I think this season we’ve just got to be hopeful of another good season while recognising we’ve been very lucky already.”