File pic of Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore with A Plus Tard. Morgan Treacy/INPHO

De Bromhead and Blackmore perplexed after A Plus Tard's Haydock disappointment

Meanwhile, Constitution Hill did not run at Ascot.

HENRY DE BROMHEAD was at a loss to to explain what he described as a performance that was “too bad to be true” from his Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard in defence of his Betfair Chase crown at Haydock.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned eight-year-old was imperious in winning on Merseyside 12 months ago, sauntering 22 lengths clear under Rachael Blackmore.

It was a similar story at Cheltenham in March as A Plus Tard sprinted up the hill to mark himself down as the clear king of the division.

He was unsurprisingly all the rage for his eagerly-awaited return to action as the 1-2 favourite, but it was clear from a relatively early stage that it was not going to be plain sailing.

Eight months on from becoming the first female rider to win the Gold Cup, Blackmore settled A Plus Tard at the rear of the five-runner field, but had started to ask questions of her mount leaving the back straight.

He was already in trouble when a slow leap at the fourth fence from home sealed his fate, with Blackmore quickly admitting defeat and pulling up before the next obstacle.

“I was never that happy, to be honest,” she said afterwards.

“When I did decide we were going to pull up, he stopped very quickly under me – he was very easy to pull up.

“He seems fine trotting back, but I was never that happy throughout the race.”

Asked whether she felt the soft ground was a factor, Blackmore added: “Possibly, but he’s a very classy horse and I was hoping that wouldn’t have been an issue that would make him pull up.”

De Bromhead was similarly perplexed and will give A Plus Tard a full check up on his return to Ireland.

“It was obviously too bad to be true. That’s the best thing to say I think for the moment,” said the County Waterford handler. “We’ll get him home and see. He was in mighty form coming over, but he looked laboured didn’t he?

“Maybe the ground (was a factor), but I don’t want to make excuses. It was too bad to be true and that’s it.

“He seems fine, but we’ll scope him and check him. We can’t say anything (about future plans), we need to go through everything. It was very unlike him.”

It was Protektorat who put himself in the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture with a commanding victory in the Betfair Chase. 

constitution-hill-file-photo Constitution Hill (file pic). PA PA

Elsewhere, Goshen capitalised on the absence of Constitution Hill to make a winning return to hurdles in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot.

The race was billed as the starting point for last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, but Nicky Henderson ruled the Seven Barrows star out on Saturday morning due to the ground, leaving just four to go to post.

Both the 6-5 winner and evens favourite Brewin’upastorm had a point to prove heading into the two-mile-three-furlong Grade Two and the main protagonists were side-by-side tracking the pace as For Pleasure took the quartet along.

It was Goshen who made the first move, with Jamie Moore taking his mount to the lead shortly after the third last, but there was little to separate the duo as they jumped two out.

However, by the time they had reached the final flight it was Goshen who had gained the upper hand and he was pushed out by Jamie Moore for an eight-and-a-half-length success.

Newcastle’s Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the International Hurdle at Cheltenham are both options for Constitution Hill’s return.

Last year’s star novice was due to make his seasonal bow in the extended two-mile-three-furlong contest, but with the ground at the Berkshire track having changed to good, good to soft in places despite overnight watering, Nicky Henderson was not prepared to take any chances.

The Seven Barrows handler expressed concerns about conditions on Friday and having walked the track before racing on Saturday, he felt it was an easy decision to pull out the ante-post Champion Hurdle favourite.

“I wouldn’t run anything on it to be honest with you,” said Henderson. “I’ve also had to take out our bumper horse, who is very very nice and I’m not risking him either.

“Chris Stickles (clerk of the course) just said to me ‘I’m sorry, it has dried out far quicker than I could possibly have thought’. It is drying out all day and by the time we get to the fifth race, it will be very quick.

“I have to say the only good thing is that it was not a hard decision, it was cut and dried, no argument whatsoever, it was definitely a no.”

Press Association
Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel