A Plus Tard became the first Irish trained winner of the Betfair Chase at Haydock when routing the opposition by upwards of 22 lengths. Last season's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was registering his third Grade 1 victory and is now as short as 7/2 to go one better in steeplchasing's blue riband next spring. The Kapgarde gelding toyed with his rivals jumping and travelling strongly throughout. Rachael Blackmore's mount hit the front at the third last because there wasn't anything good enough to lead him for longer and he treated the likes of Royal Pagaille and Bristol De Mai with disdain. The Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas could be next before a return to the Dublin track in February for the Irish Hennessy. On this evidence, the seven year old who remains unexposed over staying trips, is going to take some stopping this winter/spring. He looked a Grade 1 horse against handicappers on Saturday afternoon.
Stablemate Bob Olinger made a good start to his chasing career with a comfortable six and a half lengths win at Gowran Park earlier in the day. Withdrawn from an engagement seven days earlier, the Cheltenham Festival winner got in close to a couple of fences but was always in control. Despite a slight peck on landing at the third last, the Sholokhov gelding pulled away to win with plenty in hand. A stronger early gallop will play to his strengths in future. Stiffer tests lie ahead and it will be interesting to see if he is steered towards the Grade 1 novice chase at Limerick on St Stephen's Day. While he has the speed to drop back to two miles, the six year old is likely to remain over the intermediate trip for the time being.
The same owner Robcour may have another budding star in French recruit Saint Felicien. Featured in the Top 40 Prospects of One Jump Ahead, the Saint Des Saints gelding had won easily on his debut at Auteuil in March before being bought for a hefty sum by agent Alex Elliott. The four year old had impressed James Reveley and it was therefore no surprise to see him outclass his six opponents in a two miles novice hurdle at Gowran Park on his first start for Gordon Elliott. Always prominent, his jumping was excellent and extended his advantage with a bold leap at the third last - the result was never in doubt thereafter. Despite getting in tight at the final flight, he won eased down by two and a quarter lengths, a margin which grossly flattered the runner-up. Only a novice until the end of this month, he is expected to head down the conditions hurdles route. His future lies over fences next season but he looks capable of winning a big prize over timber this winter. He looks something special and another future star for the Top 40.
Bravemansgame is a Grade 1 winning hurdler and it is only a matter of time before he does likewise over fences. Third in the Ballymore NH behind Bob Olinger at Cheltenham in March, the former Irish pointer had impressed on his chasing bow at Newton Abbot last month. It was more of the same on his second start as he readily saw off the challenge of Grade 1 winner Itchy Feet in the two miles five Graduation Chase at Haydock. A two and three quarter lengths winner, his jumping was terrific and a crack at the Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day will be his next assignment. The runner-up is rated 155 but faced an impossible task attempting to concede four pounds. Paul Nicholls will be already eyeing a return to Merseyside in twelve months time for the Betfair Chase - following the withdrawal of Next Destination, it is only the second time Team Ditcheat were without a runner in the three miles event (no runner in 2017).
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