Punters seeking some clarity on the form and wellbeing of defending Cheltenham Gold Cup champion A Plus Tard have been left disappointed.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead has confirmed that the Irish raider will head straight to the Cheltenham Festival without a warm-up run, meaning that his sole outing prior was a dismal effort in the Betfair Chase.
The nine-year-old was never at it at Haydock Park in November, and in the end so off colour was A Plus Tard that Rachel Blackmore had no choice but to end her Gold Cup winning charge’s afternoon early.
Vets inspected the horse after the race but found no injury, leaving De Bromhead perplexed and bemoaning a performance that was ‘too bad to be true.’
Plans to hand A Plus Tard another runout at the Savills Chase in December were scuppered when the horse suffered a minor injury, and with a lack of appropriate races coming up at a left-handed racecourse, De Bromhead has admitted defeat.
“I think we go straight there, we’ve sort of made that decision now and that’s it,” the Irish trainer admitted.
“We’re well able to get him spot on for the day and we’ll just aim for that.”
That leaves backers and layers both completely in the dark, although punters at least have more evidence to work with when it comes to Minella Indo.
The 2020 Gold Cup champion will also head to Cheltenham without another prep race, although De Bromhead’s charge did return to action with a win on New Year’s Day, defeating another Gold Cup contender in Stattler by a neck at Tramore.
The ante post Gold Cup betting market is dominated by Galopin Des Champs, with memories of his demolition of the field in the 2022 Turners Novices’ Chase – albeit before falling at the final fence – still somewhat fresh in the memory.
Willie Mullins’s charge has added to his CV since with comfortable victories at Fairyhouse and in the John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown. In truth, no other horse has laid a metaphorical glove on Galopin Des Champs for the best part of two years now.
Another notable addition to the field is Noble Yeats, the 2022 Grand National champion. The Gold Cup represents a huge step up in grade for the eight-year-old, who has done very little anywhere other than at Aintree, but trainer Emmet Mullins is bullish about his charge’s chances.
“We haven’t found the ceiling for him yet,” the Irishman claimed, before adding that a remarkable tilt at the Gold Cup-Grand National double is in the offing in 2023.
“[I] cannot see any reason why we shouldn’t fancy our chances once again,” Mullins said when quizzed on his hopes for a successful defence of his Aintree crown.
Noble Yeats will be shorn of the services of Sam Waley-Cohen, the amateur jockey who retired immediately after guiding the 50/1 chance to his National victory, and will be looking to emulate the heroics of just two horses to win both the Gold Cup and the Grand National: Golden Miller, who achieved the remarkable feat of winning both in 1934, and L’Escargot.