Betfair Chase preview: A Plus Tard looking ‘as good as last year’

Rachael Blackmore is relishing the opportunity to be reunited with A Plus Tard in their bid for back-to-back victories in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned eight-year-old has already provided Blackmore with some of her biggest days in the saddle, kicking off with her first Cheltenham Festival success three years ago.

Since then the pair have combined for three Grade One victories, including a 22-length triumph on Merseyside 12 months ago and a similarly breathtaking display in the Cheltenham Gold Cup as Blackmore became the first female jockey to claim National Hunt racing’s most prestigious prize.

A Plus Tard can expect to encounter very different conditions to last year at Haydock, with the ground forecast to be testing, but Blackmore is nevertheless excited to be on board once more.

She said: “I’m really looking forward to riding him, he has been in great form at home so we’re looking forward to getting him started. Henry and Davey Roche (assistant) are very happy with him, he seems as good as last year, at home anyway, and is in great form.

“It was a phenomenal performance he put in last year and we’re hoping for a very good run. It is hard to comprehend the type of horses I get to ride, he ran a fantastic race (at Haydock) last year and hopefully all goes to plan on Saturday.”

De Bromhead celebrates after A Plus Tard's victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock
Image: Henry De Bromhead celebrates after A Plus Tard’s victory at Haydock

Last season A Plus Tard won at Haydock as trainer Henry de Bromhead’s first ever runner at the track before going on to be narrowly beaten in Leopardstown’s Savills Chase and then win the Gold Cup.

The Knockeen handler is planning to follow the same route this term and feels his charge is in similar form to this time last year.

“We started thinking of the Betfair Chase last year after he was second to Minella Indo in the Gold Cup. It was Richard Thompson (Cheveley Park director) who mentioned it as we all felt he needed to go left-handed. It was a great idea,” said De Bromhead. “He was my first ever runner at Haydock and thankfully everything went really well.

“We feel he’s done plenty so we are happy with him. When you are only running these horses three or four times a year, you want these runs to count, so we hope he’s as well as he was last year – fingers crossed for a nice run.

“Hopefully the plan after this will be Leopardstown at Christmas and then Cheltenham in March. I think that makes sense as he has the preference for going left, so they are the obvious races for him.”

A Plus Tard pulls clear to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup under Rachael Blackmore
Image: A Plus Tard pulls clear to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup under Blackmore

A Plus Tard renews rivalry with last year’s Gold Cup third Protektorat, who subsequently failed to sparkle at Aintree but is reported to be firing on all cylinders by trainer Dan Skelton.

He said: “I’m really happy with him, we’ve given him a couple of gallops at our grass gallop and he’s been for an away day as well. He looks fantastic, there’s no excuses. I’ve got him ready for this, I’m not leaving any per cent untouched.

“He’s had three goes at it (three miles plus) – once he was over the top, once he was third in the Gold Cup and once he’s gone round on the bridle in soft ground, which I hope it will be on Saturday.

“I know what we’re taking on, there’s no way we’re going to start favourite. It’s going to be very difficult to beat A Plus Tard, of course we know that, (but) there’s not many others in it and if we weren’t there I’m sure everyone would be moaning there’s no competition, so let’s give it a go.”

Proktektorat on his way to victory at Aintree in April
Image: Proktektorat on his way to victory at Aintree in April

The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Bristol De Mai bids to emulate the great Kauto Star by bagging his fourth Betfair Chase at the age of 11.

The popular grey was pulled up in last year’s renewal, but conditions will be more in his favour ahead of his bid for a sixth win at the track overall.

Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: “The horse doesn’t seem old, he seems young at home and he’s in good form and full of zest. He loves Haydock, but does need to get his toe in the ground. It will be soft enough for him to run, but whether it will be heavy enough for him to really excel, I don’t know.

“But we look forward to seeing him run, because he likes small fields and he likes Haydock. He is not getting any younger, but he did run some nice races with huge weights in January and February. I wouldn’t worry about needing a first run of the season – Nigel has trained him for Saturday.”

Bristol De Mai
Image: Bristol De Mai has won three Betfair Chase titles

The field is completed by Joe Tizzard’s Eldorado Allen and the Paul Nicholls-trained Frodon, both of whom have the benefit of a recent run under their belt.

Eldorado Allen finished second to Bravemansgame in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby three weeks ago and bids to provide the Tizzard team with a fifth Betfair Chase following Cue Card’s three triumphs between 2013 and 2016 and the success of Lostintranslation in 2019.

“He is about 10lb behind Cue Card and Lostinstranslation on official ratings going into this, but he is a progressive horse that improved a stone last season,” said Tizzard. “He has still got to improve a bit to shake them up but now he is seeing this trip out well, there is no saying that he won’t run well – I’m excited about him taking his chance.”


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