Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead celebrate winning with A Plus Tard in 2019. Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A Plus Tard set for Haydock and Mullins confirms earlier start for Al Boum Photo

Willie Mullins is also hoping to have Klassical Dream ready for the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse.

A PLUS TARD is on course to be Henry de Bromhead’s first Haydock runner later this month.

The trainer is targeting the extended three-mile-one-furlong contest as a starting point for his Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up, who made a seamless transition to top-class staying races last term.

A Grade One winner over two miles and a furlong back in 2019, A Plus Tard moved back up to three miles at Christmas and duly won the Savills Chase – before then chasing home stablemate Minella Indo at Cheltenham.

De Bromhead said: “A Plus Tard is in mighty form – he worked really well the other day, and we’re aiming for the Betfair Chase.

“I ran him in the Fortria over two miles for his first run (last year), and he got beaten, but he sort of fooled me completely as he beat Chacun Pour Soi the previous year over two miles.

“Looking at the re-run of the Ryanair, it just looked like he was staying on at the end, so we all agreed to give him a go over three miles – and he was brilliant in the Savills Chase.

“There was no question about his stamina at Cheltenham. He’s an amazing horse to win a Grade One over two miles and a Grade one over three miles – there’s not many that do it. He’s brilliant and he’s still only seven, so he’s improving all the time.

“If everything goes well, I would imagine we’ll start in the Betfair, aim for the Savills – and then he went straight for the Gold Cup last year, so probably something similar.”

While A Plus Tard is set to stay in Ireland over Christmas, De Bromhead has two options for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton – in Minella Indo and second-season star Envoi Allen.

rachael-blackmore-onboard-envoi-allen-comes-home-to-win Rachael Blackmore on board Envoi Allen comes home to win at Down Royal last weekend. Declan Roughan / INPHO Declan Roughan / INPHO / INPHO

Both reappeared at Down Royal last Saturday when Minella Indo had to settle for third behind Frodon in the Champion Chase, while Envoi Allen won a Grade Two contest to put behind him a nightmare spring which saw him lose his unbeaten record when falling at the Cheltenham Festival before being pulled up at Punchestown.

De Bromhead is keen to send Minella Indo for the King George, but may swerve the contest with Envoi Allen.

He said: “I’d say Indo is highly likely. Envoi Allen, I’m not sure. He’s a second-season novice, we’ll see. It was great to get that run the other day, he looked brilliant again – he could, but we haven’t made any plans with him.

“I know Indo is maybe not your typical King George horse, but we’ll certainly weigh it up nearer the time.

“It could be the King George or the Savills – we’ll see how that goes. He’ll come on plenty for Down Royal – he was a little bit shorter than I thought he was, and he caught me out a little bit, but he still ran a cracker.”

De Bromhead not only has a plethora of talented chasers, he also houses the reigning champion hurdler Honeysuckle – who boasts a perfect record of 12 wins in as many starts.

The seven-year-old obliterated her Cheltenham rivals by six and a half lengths in the spring and will kick off her campaign in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, where she will be bidding to emulate the late Solerina and Apple’s Jade in winning the race for a third successive year.

“She’s great, she’s a superstar and she’s doing really well,” he said.

“She loves working up the hill here, but she loves her days away as well.

“She’ll have a few of those before the Hatton’s Grace, which is where we’ll start out again with her. It’s a tried-and-tested route – and of course, it’s all about Cheltenham in March.

“She’s a fantastic mare.”

patrick-mullins-with-klassical-dream-and-eilish-byrne-after-winning Patrick Mullins with Klasscial Dream and Eilish Byrne after last year's win in Punchestown. Caroline Norris / INPHO Caroline Norris / INPHO / INPHO

Klassical Dream is part of a strong team Willie Mullins is readying to take on Honeysuckle at Fairyhouse.

Mullins, who has previously won the Hatton’s Grace with Hurricane Fly (2010), Zaidpour (2012) and Arctic Fire (2015), is keen to ensure Henry de Bromhead’s superstar does not have it all her own way.

Injuries have restricted Klassical Dream to just a handful of starts since claiming Cheltenham Festival glory in the 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

However, he proved his ability remains very much intact when making a spectacular return from 487 days on the sidelines in the Champion Stayers Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in April.

Mullins said on Thursday: “Klassical Dream is in good form and worked nicely this morning.

“It was eye-opening what he did in Punchestown. He’d been working well at home before that, but I found it hard to believe he could put in that sort of run first time out against Grade One horses.

“I spent a good bit of time debating whether to go jumping fences. But with my team at home, we were looking at his soundness record and we just felt it might be easier to keep him sound over hurdles.

“The Hatton’s Grace is a great starting point. The horses that win it nearly always go on to Christmas and Cheltenham and Punchestown, so it’s a great indicator.

“A lot will depend how he goes over the next few weeks, whether he’s ready for Fairyhouse.”

Klassical Dream is one of four Hatton’s Grace entries for the champion trainer, with Stormy Ireland, Saldier and Burning Victory also in contention.

Mullins has confirmed his intention to get Al Boum Photo back on the track earlier this season as he plots the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero’s route back to the Festival in March.

Al Boum Photo finally provided the famous meeting’s most successful trainer with his first victory in the blue riband in 2019, and then successfully defended his crown 12 months later.

On both occasions he warmed up for his trip to Prestbury Park with a solitary previous appearance in a light campaign – winning on New Year’s Day at Tramore – so it was no surprise Mullins followed the same path again last season.

However, Al Boum Photo had to make do with an honourable third behind Minella Indo and A Plus Tard in his bid for a Gold Cup hat-trick – and Mullins is planning a busier schedule this time for the nine-year-old.

paul-townend-on-al-boum-photo-clears-the-last-to-win Paul Townend on Al Boum Photo clears the last to win in Tramore last year. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

He said: “I definitely think we’ll take a different route.

“Last year we got caught a little bit on the hop because of Covid and the horses having long breaks.

“I think it will benefit him now, at his age and everything, to have more runs and be more battle-hardened for the spring time.”

Al Boum Photo has already been entered for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, while the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on 5 December has been mooted as a potential target.

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey look ahead to Ireland-Japan with the help of Japanese rugby expert Rich Freeman, while the lads also assess ‘Tier Two’ rugby two years out from the World Cup:

The42 Rugby Weekly / SoundCloud

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