He’s got a long way to go until he matches the achievements of Kauto Star, but Angus McNae believes A Plus Tard has the potential to be just as good as one of the greatest National Hunt horses of all time.
Discussing A Plus Tard’s hugely impressive Betfair Chase victory in the latest edition of The Verdict on Racing TV, McNae was full of praise for Henry de Bromhead’s star chaser who pulverised his opposition in the Haydock feature on Saturday.
Watch: The Verdict with Angus McNae - Full Show
It was a career-best performance from last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up, and while McNae explained how the race fell apart, he expects there to be lots more to come from the seven-year-old.
Bob Olinger’s impressive chasing debut success was also put under the microscope, as was Bravemansgame’s Haydock victory. The pair clashed in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle last season, and McNae explained why he believes the Irish raider will come out on top again when the high-class novice chasers next meet over fences.
A youngster who scored in a bumper at Market Rasen also caught the eye of the Racing TV presenter who provided his expert analysis during the 30-minute show, and below are four key things we learnt.
Watch: Angus McNae analyses Springwell Bay's impressive bumper success at Market Rasen
This youngster created a huge impression scoring on his British debut by 14 lengths at Market Rasen, without being asked for his full effort. The four-year-old showed bundles of potential when narrowly beaten in the valuable Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival last season and while he was an expensive purchase by his new connections afterwards, it could be a good investment given how much ability Springwell Bay showed here.
Angus McNae said: "He finished second in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper in Ireland on his first start, and the third, fourth, fifth and seventh in that race have all won since.
"He was subsequently bought for €155,000 and joined the Jonjo O’Neill team. Jonjo Jnr was on board at Market Rasen, his first win since returning from injury, and this horse looks a very good purchase. You wouldn’t get him for €155,000 now...you would have to go double that, I think!
"He quickens clear in impressive fashion and shows a fine turn of foot. His final three furlongs was 40.15 seconds and that’s been done while he’s being eased down from just before the furlong pole. He absolutely destroys his rivals. They went an even gallop, a normal bumper gallop, and he’s sprinted clear.
"His penultimate furlong of 12.92 seconds really put the race to bed, and this was hugely impressive. I think this is a horse who is perhaps going to be a Champion Bumper horse, but it is not a race Jonjo O’Neill has had many runners in. Since 2011, he’s only had a couple, and they were both well beaten. Perhaps it’s not a race he necessarily targets, but he’s got a very smart prospect on his hands. It’s a rarity for a bumper horse to show the turn of foot that he displayed here, and he won as he liked. You could not fail to be impressed visually with this, and the clock backs his performance up.
"If Jonjo O’Neill decides to have a go at the Champion Bumper with Springwell Bay, then he might just win it."
Watch: Angus McNae takes a closer look at Bravemansgame's stylish victory at Haydock
A Grade One winner over hurdles last season, Bravemansgame has made the perfect start to life over fences. Impressive in the jumping department on his chasing debut at Newton Abbot, he again impressed over his fences en route to a smooth victory at Haydock on Saturday. Grade One targets now await Paul Nicholls’ potential star, and it is easy to see why he has been compared to Denman at this stage of his career.
Angus McNae said: "This was a flawless performance from a brilliant novice. This was his second chase start and his jumping was superb; absolutely brilliant. He did not go that quick out in front and the finishing speed percentage was 100.92% suggesting it was just an evenly-run affair. Harry Cobden got it spot on from the front and judged the pace to perfection. That’s not why he won, though. He won because he was miles better than his rivals. He got in close to one fence in the home straight, but he was really clever when he did so. Most fences he took in his stride and pinged them.
"His 21st furlong was 14.86 seconds, but he did it while he was on the bridle, and he could have gone quicker. Itchy Feet, who finished second, was running on, but don’t be fooled by that, he didn’t look like he fancied it at all for much of the race and is not the horse that he was a few years ago.
"Harry Cobden is not moving a muscle on Bravemansgame in the home straight and this horse knows exactly what he is doing. You don’t have to organise him at his fences, he just goes in and jumps them. It’s just an exercise canter for him and his jumping is his main asset, I think. He’s a tremendous prospect, he really is.
"He’s already a Grade One-winning hurdler, and he ran well in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle behind Bob Olinger. Perhaps they’re going to meet again at some point, and that would be a tremendous race to see them both taking each other on over fences."
Watch: Angus McNae explains why he believes A Plus Tard has the potential to be the next Kauto Star
It was hard not to be impressed with A Plus Tard’s success in the Betfair Chase on Saturday. Admittedly, a few of his main rivals had excuses, but he travelled like he was the best horse in the race, jumped well and cruised clear in effortless fashion. It is no surprise to see he is now a best-priced 7-2 to go one better in next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and, given he is still only seven, there’s likely to be further improvement on the horizon.
Angus McNae said: "It was a tremendous performance from A Plus Tard who won the race as he liked. I don’t think it was a particularly strong race as it fell apart, to some degree. You have to make note of that.
"Bristol De Mai didn’t get the softish ground that he really liked, Royal Pagaille was exposed in the Gold Cup, and he was exposed again here, plus Chatham Street Lad is just not up to this class.
"However, that takes nothing away from how visually impressive A Plus Tard was.
"Royal Pagaille was all for surging clear four out, but Rachael Blackmore literally has to take a pull on A Plus Tard. That’s how well he was going, and when Rachael does eventually say go, he surges clear and wins, perhaps, as he should do. He’s absolutely annihilated them, though. He’s a superb, improving chaser who is trained by a brilliant trainer, Henry de Bromhead, and ridden by a fantastic jockey.
"He did the final three furlongs in 43.41 seconds, but he didn’t have to run fast to put his main rival away, and he did that on the bridle.
"A Plus Tard could be tremendously good. He’s only seven, and there could be loads more to come. He could be the next Kauto Star, and I really hope he goes on to prove he is a superstar. He is going to be a huge force again in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this season which he is now favourite for."
Watch: Angus McNae takes an in-depth look at Bob Olinger's chasing debut success
This looked a tricky starting point for Bob Olinger who faced some above-average rivals on his chasing debut. However, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner raced prominently and jumped well prior to giving his supporters a couple of scares in the home straight. He was well on top at the finish, though, and is now a best-priced 9-4 for next year’s Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Angus McNae said: "Bob Olinger was fully expected to win on his chasing debut. He was a brilliant hurdler who won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle as he liked at the Cheltenham Festival last season and was sent off the 1-3 favourite at Gowran on Saturday.
"This race was run at a steady gallop, but Bob Olinger was always prominent and his jumping was pretty good overall.
"He has thrashed this field and I think he was a little bit careful at some of his fences, and his minor error at the last was the only discernible error that he made.
"This is a very, very good horse and this was as a good a beginners’ chase as you’re going to see for a while. He’s thrashed Bacardys who was a decent hurdler in his own right, and there were other nice horses in behind. Bob Olinger has just cantered away from them and I think he would beat Bravemansgame over fences, just like he did over hurdles.
"If he does get more fluent over his fences, then he is going to be incredibly hard to beat in this division. He’s the sort of novice that connections could think about running in the Cheltenham Gold Cup! I don’t think they will, but it must cross their mind for a second or two, given his potential. He's the most exciting horse there is in the National Hunt game and is a Gold Cup horse in waiting."Simply sign up and deposit (minimum £15) with one of our 15 betting partners, complete the form and we'll send out you the all new Racing TV Christmas Jumper for free.
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