Mad King George bid tempts Moore should Thistlecrack stays away
If Thistlecrack is not in the King George, Ar Mad very probably will be.
That was the clear indication coming on Sunday from Gary Moore, who now has his eyes firmly fixed on racing's Christmas classic and a clash with defending champion Cue Card after taking considerable encouragement from his star two-miler's return to action in Saturday's Betfair Tingle Creek Chase.
On what his first outing in 292 days, Ar Mad stayed on strongly for a closing fourth having initially set a blistering early pace before being headed down the back straight, where uncharacteristic jumping errors, particularly at the first Railway fence, blunted his momentum.
Such was the manner in which Ar Mad powered up the Sandown hill, Moore believes it is now well worth stepping the six-year-old up in trip by a mile for the 32Red King George VI Chase, in which he was originally engaged before being taken out.
A supplementary entry for the Kempton showpiece, for which Coral make him a 20-1 shot, would cost owner Ashley Head £10,000.
Cue Card can be backed at between evens and 13-8 for the King George, with Thistlecrack – who could instead contest the 32Red Kauto Star Novices' Chase on the same card – a best-priced 5-1 due to doubts about his participation.
Should Cue Card's nearest Betfair Chase victim Coneygree miss the King George and travel to Ireland for the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28, the number of realistic challengers to Cue Card at Kempton could be minimal.
"I would definitely consider putting him back into the King George," said Moore.
"If Thistlecrack looks like running at Kempton, I wouldn't bother, but if he isn't going there I would more than likely let Ar Mad take his chance. The good thing is we don't have to enter him until the 19th, so I've got plenty of time to talk with the owner.
"I have a lot of respect for our horse and think three miles around Kempton could definitely suit him. He also proved on Saturday he doesn't have to make the running."
Reflecting further on Ar Mad's performance, and that of stablemate Sire De Grugy, who fought valiantly with Un De Sceaux before losing out by a length, Moore added: "I thought after nearly 300 days off it was an outstanding run from Ar Mad. To finish as strongly as he did after the mistake he made was amazing. He will come on for it a massive amount as well.
"Sire ran another unbelievable race and he'll be well suited by going to Kempton for the Desert Orchid Chase."
Also heading from Sandown to Kempton is striking Racing Post Henry VIII Novices' Chase winner Altior, with last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle victor now no bigger than 7-4 for the Racing Post-backed Arkle Trophy.
"You can see from the pictures of him jumping that he has such scope. That's why we've gone chasing. I have no regrets about the move we've made.
"He has a good turn of foot as well. He landed over the last fence upsides, but within ten strides he was gone and clear. He can do that because the rest of a race is quite easy to him due to his high cruising speed.
"I suppose the Wayward Lad at Kempton is the obvious next target as it nicely rounds off the first part of the campaign. Then we can regroup and decide what to do after that, with races like the Kingmaker and Game Spirit options if we want to go again before Cheltenham."
Making clear he has little desire to entertain a Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase challenge in March, Henderson added: "I can seriously understand why they're going down the Gold Cup route with Thistlecrack because he's two years older than Altior, but I don't really see why one wouldn't follow the conventional route with our horse.
"Sure, he's very good, but there's plenty of time for him to be running in the Champion Chase. There's a very long way to go."
Henderson will be well represented at Cheltenham this week, including with My Tent Or Yours in Saturday's Stanjames.com International Hurdle, for which owner JP McManus's Alan King-trained Yanworth is now also under consideration.
"Tent will definitely run in the International," said Henderson.
"The point of going to Haydock rather than Newcastle was to give him three weeks before this race. I'm very pleased with him. O O Seven could go to Cheltenham on Saturday as well for the novice chase."