Cheltenham Festival: Henry de Bromhead says his Gold Cup contenders are thriving as big day looms
The Cheveley Park-owned runner reversed the 2021 result with stablemate Minella Indo when powering to an impressive 15-length verdict in the blue riband last March.
A Plus Tard has had just one run since that triumph, when pulled up as an odds-on favourite at Haydock, with a planned Christmas outing at Leopardstown scuppered by a last-minute setback on the day of the Savills Chase. De Bromhead reports A Plus Tard to be well over that knocked joint and feels the nine-year-old is showing all the right signs, although he admits his lack of recent action is not ideal. He told talkSPORT2: "The first half of the season has been really frustrating. Haydock just didn't happen at all, we thought we were all set to go at Christmas and he banged himself, he just wasn't right and we couldn't (run), so we had to commit to going straight there (Cheltenham). "It's a tough ask. He's a very good horse, he was extremely impressive last year and we feel he's coming all the time for us. Hopefully he will arrive on schedule. "I suppose there's probably not many that go into it without a run, so the numbers would be against him. Last year he ran at Christmas, so that was still a fair old break. You'd love to have had one good run under your belt this season, unfortunately we haven't but he seems to be really coming to himself and hopefully we're being led this way for a reason." Minella Indo is set to be in opposition once again, with the 10-year-old having kicked off his campaign with victory in Tramore's Savills Chase on New Year's Day. While A Plus Tard is as low as 11-2 for the Gold Cup, Minella Indo is a general 20-1 shot - but De Bromhead is not ruling him out of the equation. He added: "He seems in great form, that was a fantastic day for us at Tramore and we're really happy with him. "Obviously he's a bit older now, but he loves Cheltenham and he always comes to life at this time of year. We're really excited to get him there." De Bromhead has won the last two Champions Hurdles with Honeysuckle and he is anticipating a huge swell of emotion should she sign off her exceptional career with another Festival win. While she is set to tackle the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle rather than take on Constitution Hill in the main event, De Bromhead thinks the 10-year-old will still face a stern test. Honeysuckle surrendered her unbeaten record when third in the Hatton's Grace on her return, while Champion Hurdle-bound State Man was too good at Leopardstown last time. But judged on the reception she received at the Dublin track, the Kenny Alexander-owned mare is likely to be cheered to the rafters whatever the result. De Bromhead said: "There won't (be a dry eye in the house). I think a lot of people would love to see it happen, it's great she's getting the opportunity. But we have to win it first, so that's still a long way away. "It's a tough task, it's a very competitive Mares' Hurdle, there's plenty in it, but we just feel it's a better option for us now. "She's in great form, she loves it there and she's won the race before. She's a year older and we will have to see. We look forward to getting there on the day hopefully and taking our chance. "In an ideal world, if I could have changed the ground for Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, better ground over two and a half and soft over two, she probably would have finished a lot closer in both, but there you go, it's not an ideal world and we couldn't."
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