A Plus Tard could have the chance to atone for his Haydock disappointment in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown, with Henry de Bromhead’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero among 11 entries for the December 28th contest.
It was when winning the Christmas Grade One in 2020 that the eight-year-old first announced himself as a leading player in the staying division and although having to settle for second behind stablemate Minella Indo at Prestbury Park later that season, got his crowning moment earlier this year when romping away with the blue riband in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.
Minella Indo could make his seasonal bow in the Savills, while De Bromhead has a third string to his bow in Envoi Allen, winner of the Champion Chase at Down Royal on his return last month.
A Plus Tard was beaten a short head by Galvin in this race last year and the defending champion is one of three entered for the race by Gordon Elliott alongside Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated and Fury Road.
Franco De Port, Stattler, Royal Rendezvous and Kemboy are all possible for Willie Mullins, with the latter holding an enviable record in the race — scoring by 7½ lengths in 2018, before finishing fourth, second and third in subsequent years.
Defending champion Klassical Dream is one of a maximum 15 runners for the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle that also features on the December 28th card.
Paul Townend produced a canny ride to slip the field and make all when scoring 12 months ago and will lock horns with last year’s runner-up and 2020 hero Flooring Porter once again as Gavin Cromwell’s stable star continues his journey back to Cheltenham, where he will look to become a three-time winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Home By The Lee
However, the seven-year-old was well held on his seasonal reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle as Home By The Lee caused a 28-1 upset when getting the better of an enthralling battle up the Navan straight with Bob Olinger.
Home By The Lee’s stamina came to the fore in the closing stages of that Grade Two contest and trainer Joseph O’Brien believes the return to three miles will serve him well next week.
He said: “He’s a strong stayer and the plan is to run at Leopardstown. We’re looking forward to it. He’s had a smooth preparation and this has always been the plan since Navan.”
Bob Olinger would be a fitting winner of the race named in honour of his trainer’s son Jack, who died in a pony racing accident earlier this year. And O’Brien has plenty of respect for the dual Cheltenham Festival winner despite coming out on top at Navan.
He added: “Bob Olinger is a top-quality horse and we were a big-price winner on the day, but we are hopeful Home By The Lee will run well and are happy with how our horse has trained.”
Navan third Ashdale Bob also features among the entries, as does four from Cullentra House — Commander Of Fleet, Queens Brook, Zanahiyr and Sire Du Berlais.