Monday reaction: '10-1 about A Plus Tard for the Gold Cup looks more than fair'
Scott Burton assesses the key performances at Leopardstown
There are bound to be a stack of questions thrown up by a race in which both Minella Indo and Delta Work came down before anyone had started racing in earnest. But there also has to be genuine excitement about the emergence of A Plus Tard as a force at the elite level over three miles.
Sizing John won a Gold Cup after spending most of his career at two miles, while War Of Attrition was runner-up to Beef Or Salmon in this race on his sole start at three miles before heading to Cheltenham to land the big one.
A horse with the speed to beat Chacun Pour Soi over two miles and a furlong here 12 months ago, A Plus Tard seemed to relish every yard and even if he hadn't quite managed to reel in Kemboy and Melon on the run-in, Henry de Bromhead would have seen plenty to encourage him to stick with staying trips in the spring. Victory surely forces his hand to go down the Gold Cup route.
It is never satisfactory to have two of the leading players fail to complete, while Presenting Percy appeared to sulk in behind and failed to make an impression. But 10-1 about A Plus Tard for the Gold Cup looks more than fair and the experience of his third-placed effort in last season's Ryanair, along with his easy win at the festival's novice handicap chase in 2019, suggests the track at Cheltenham holds no fears.
Irish hopes for Stayers' Hurdle only dented
The burgeoning rivalry between Paisley Park and Thyme Hill looks set to dominate the narrative among the staying hurdlers over the next three months, due perhaps in part to the huge armada of talent Ireland's top trainers can boast in the other three championship races at the Cheltenham Festival.
Fury Road and Sire Du Berlais were bidding to establish their credentials as the leading Irish challenger to the big two and on the face of it, both fluffed their lines.
Fury Road looked to be tapped for toe at a crucial stage having got involved in a barging match exiting the back straight with Sire Du Berlais, who himself might prefer a stronger pace to run at.
Quotes of 12-1 for the winner Flooring Porter about the Stayers' Hurdle shows the respect bookmakers have for trainer Gavin Cromwell, given he was having his first start outside of handicap company here.
Flooring Porter is undoubtedly improving at a rate of knots and, while it has to be doubtful he will be given such an easy time on the front in the future, you only have to go back five years to Cole Harden to find an all-the-way winner at Cheltenham.
Gaillard Du Mesnil could be among Mullins' top novice hurdlers
Gaillard Du Mesnil shed his maiden tag over hurdles in taking fashion over two and a half miles and was cut for the Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle race at the festival.
The son of Saint Des Saints was not far off the best of his generation as a three-year-old in AQPS bumpers in France and looked to have plenty of gears in what was a strongly run affair thanks to Magic Daze.
While tougher tests await, Gaillard Du Mesnil looks an exciting novice and it will be interesting to see whether Willie Mullins sticks to this intermediate trip for the next step in his education or gives him a try in a graded assignment over two miles. As for Cheltenham, he could be one of those horses over whose target the trainer agonises until late in the day.
The Big Getaway another Donnelly ace
Gaillard Du Mesnil's owners Joe and Marie Donnelly saw their checked silks carried to success in the beginners' chase by last season's Ballymore third The Big Getaway.
He was clearly taking a big step forward from a third-placed effort on his chasing debut and jumped well in the main, organising his huge frame with surprising ease when getting in tight a couple of times.
In the short term he paid a compliment to his Navan conqueror Conflated ahead of that horse's Grade 1 assignment here on Tuesday.
As for future targets, Mullins will surely be keen to avoid Envoi Allen at around two and a half miles. Quotes of 20-1 for the Marsh and 14-1 for the 3m novice chase championship at Cheltenham look about right for a horse who may be far from the finished article.
How the results affected the markets
A Plus Tard 8-1 (from 10) for the Ryanair Chase with Coral
A Plus Tard 10-1 (from 66) for the Gold Cup with Betfair
Melon 12-1 for the Ryanair Chase with Coral
Flooring Porter 12-1 (first show) for the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle with sponsors
The Storyteller 14-1 (from 20) for the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle with Ladbrokes
Paisley Park 5-2 (from 3) for the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle with BoyleSports
Gaillard Du Mesnil 16-1 (from 40) for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle with Betfair
The Big Getaway 14-1 (from 33) for the 3m Festival novice chase with Paddy Power
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