A Plus Tard sets out on Cheltenham path with Betfair Chase reappearance at Haydock

The Henry de Bromhead-trained horse will try to deny Bristol De Mai a fourth win in the race

A Plus Tard and Rachael Blackmore go in the Betfair Case at Haydock on Saturday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Cheveley Park Stud director Richard Thompson is excited to see last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up A Plus Tard make his return to action in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on Saturday.

A Grade One winner over two miles a couple of years ago, the seven-year-old successfully stepped up to three miles when lunging late to land a thrilling Savills Chase at Leopardstown last Christmas.

Connections elected to head straight to the Festival off the back of that victory and it almost paid off, with A Plus Tard finding only stablemate Minella Indo too strong in the blue riband.

With Minella Indo having suffered defeat on his seasonal debut at Down Royal three weeks ago, Thompson is aware that the other star stayer in Henry de Bromhead’s yard is likely to improve for the run.


That being said, he is anticipating a bold showing on Merseyside from A Plus Tard, who will be a first ever runner at the track for the De Bromhead team.

“It’s very exciting to be going to Haydock on Saturday. He’s in great shape, I think. He’s bouncing around and looking the part, so we’ve got to go in with confidence,” said Thompson.

“It’s obviously his first run of the season, but apart from that he’s in cracking form.

“We’re hoping for a big run, but we’ve got to recognise that he could improve for the run, of course.”

Thompson believes the fact conditions at Haydock are unseasonably dry is a positive for A Plus Tard’s chances as he bids to deny proven mud lover Bristol De Mai a fourth Betfair Chase success.

“We’ve got a bit lucky with the ground – that’s a plus, anyway,” he added.

The main reason A Plus Tard is travelling across the Irish Sea at this early stage of the campaign is the fact he prefers left-handed tracks.

Provided all goes according to plan this weekend, the son of Kapgarde looks likely to follow the same route as last season in preparation for his bid to go one better in the Cotswolds.

Thompson said: “All roads lead back to Cheltenham in March. We’ll see how Saturday goes, but he’ll probably go back to the Savills Chase again and then on to the Gold Cup.”

Nigel Twiston-Davies has backed the “exceptional” Bristol De Mai to emulate Kauto Star by securing a record-equalling fourth victory in the race.

It is 10 years since Kauto Star brought the house down at Haydock for the fourth and final time, a feat which means the Paul Nicholls-trained superstar is immortalised in bronze on Merseyside.

Twiston-Davies is hoping his long-time stable star can earn similar recognition this weekend by adding to his previous triumphs in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

He said: “Bristol De Mai is really special to us, he has been exceptional.

“We were lucky to have both him and The New One going great guns at the same time.

“Bristol hasn’t quite won the Gold Cup I always wanted, but he was third once and he’s doing okay.

“It would be just great to equal Kauto Star. He would be remembered forever and who knows, there may even be a race named after him!”

The flying grey has won five of his six starts at Haydock overall, his only defeat coming in this race when runner-up to Lostintranslation two years ago.

Bristol De Mai has been off the track since being pulled up in the Grand National in April and is not getting any younger at the age of 10, but Twiston-Davies is confident he is at the top of his game.

“He’s easy to get fit, that’s the beauty of it, and we’re all primed and ready to go,” said the trainer.

“There was one year where he was second and that year we really struggled with lameness problems and he didn’t quite get there 100 percent. We’re as happy as we’ve ever been with him fitness-wise.

“The race looks as hot as ever really, but the one thing he always has in his favour is that he’s so easy to get fit and I wonder whether they all will be as fit as he is – hopefully not.”

Conditions at Haydock will not be as testing as is usually the case at this time of year, but Twiston-Davies is unconcerned.

He said: “The track suits him and he’s won this race on good ground before [in 2018], so hopefully it won’t be a problem.

“It’s just a superb track, I love the track and it seems to suit our horses.

“Bristol likes to be able to boss races and there are two long straights and easy bends, so he can just get out there and do his stuff.”

The rank outsider in the race is Chatham Street Lad, who needs to raise his game significantly judged on an uninspiring start to his season in the Munster National at Limerick.

"He looks great in himself and by the sound of things the ground will be safe, which is the main thing," said trainer Mick Winters.

“We hope he blew up and then ran on in the race in Limerick and he came out of it well.

“I suppose you’d be a small bit worried you might be out of your depth in a race like this. It’s a big ask, but if he can hunt around and pick up the pieces and comes home safely that’ll be great.”