Al Boum Photo’s treble chance as rivals fail to worry Willie Mullins in bid to make Gold Cup history
- A Plus Tard showed he is a feature in the staying chase division at Leopardstown
- The result strengthens the position of Gold Cup favourite Al Boum Photo
- The Willie Mullins horse could make history with a third win on the bounce
A Plus Tard showed he is now a player in the staying chase division when dramatically snatching the Savills Chase at Leopardstown — but the result only strengthened the position of Cheltenham Gold Cup ante-post favourite Al Boum Photo.
The Willie Mullins-trained dual Gold Cup winner will make his seasonal debut for the third year running at Tramore on New Year’s Day, his only stepping stone to the National Hunt Festival in March.
But neither the result of Monday’s Grade One three-mile chase nor Frodon’s surprise victory in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day have caused major stirs in the Gold Cup betting.
A Plus Tard impressed ahead of the Gold Cup winning the Savills Chase at Leopardstown
The result only strengthens the case for Al Boum Photo to make it three wins out of three
The conclusion to draw from the biggest races over the festive period is that no horse has yet made a compelling case that it can stop Al Boum Photo landing an historic third win in steeplechasing’s most coveted race in just over 11 weeks.
None of which should detract from the drama and the merit of the performance of Cheveley Park Stud-owned A Plus Tard, trained by Henry De Bromhead, who had lost his supposed best chance when Rachael Blackmore-ridden 5-2 favourite Minella Indo fell at the eighth fence. One obstacle later, Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work, the 6-1 second favourite, unseated Sean Flanagan, substituting for jockey Jack Kennedy because of a collarbone issue.
Six-year-old A Plus Tard’s name means ‘See you later’ and it was certainly a very late show as he collared Mullins-trained 2018 winner Kemboy in the final strides to win by half a length.
The 15-2 shot, a first Grade One ride for jockey Darragh O’Keeffe, gatecrashed a Mullins Christmas party with Ireland’s champion trainer also responsible for two-lengths third Melon, who had been five lengths clear four fences from home, fourth Allaho, fifth Tornado Flyer and seventh Easy Game.
A return to Leopardstown for the Irish Gold Cup in February looks likely for A Plus Tard but De Bromhead was not rushing to commit to a Gold Cup over a further two-and-a-half furlongs for which the horse is a 10-1 shot.
The trainer said: ‘I was frustrated and disappointed by Minella Indo’s fall and thankful to see him get up. I latched on to A Plus Tard but had probably accepted third halfway up the straight.
Willie Mullins (right) pictured after winning the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Chase
‘Then he really rallied. I was hopeful rather than confident that he would stay. He is so classy, so we thought it was worth a try and it opens up more options.’
Back in eighth, beaten more than 75 lengths, was the disappointing Presenting Percy — a performance which might convince Elliott to concentrate on the Grand National rather than another Gold Cup tilt.
Gold Cup betting: 4-1 Al Boum Photo, 7-1 Minella Indo, Santini, 10-1 A Plus Tard, Champ, 14-1 Kemboy, 16-1 Frodon, Lostintranslation.