Henry de Bromhead plans to step Minella Indo up to Grade One level at Leopardstown on his next start, despite defeat on his chasing debut at Gowran Park.
A surprise winner of the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Minella Indo went on to prove that effort was no fluke when doubling his Grade One tally at Punchestown in the spring.
He made his first start over the larger obstacles on Saturday – and while he was ultimately no match for the Willie Mullins-trained mare Laurina over two and a half miles, the six-year-old was far from disgraced in finishing second.
Speaking at a press event at his yard on Monday, De Bromhead said: “We’ll aim at the three-mile Grade One novice in Leopardstown, subject to ground. He’s a three miler, and do you want to drag the guts out of him over three miles in a beginners chase when there’s a Grade One to play for?
“He’s had his run over fences now. We were beaten by the favourite for the Arkle the other day, and he jumped great.
“I want him to be the first horse in history to not win a maiden hurdle or a beginners chase, and yet win Grade Ones!”
A Plus Tard also claimed Cheltenham Festival glory for the De Bromhead team in March – running out a wide-margin winner of the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned five-year-old made his return to action in the Fortria Chase at Navan recently – finishing second to Enda Bolger’s Ballyoisin.
“I was delighted with his first run,” said De Bromhead.
“He seems to be far superior on a left-handed track – I think he runs to 140 on a right-handed track and to 160 on a left-handed.
“I think he’ll improve plenty for the run. I think his trip is two-and-a-half or two-five – a Ryanair Chase-type trip.
“I’m struggling for options for him. The John Durkan would have been the obvious one, but I don’t think he’s as good right-handed. There’s a three-mile race at Aintree (Many Clouds Chase), which might be a bit far, and then you’ve the two-mile-one Grade One at Leopardstown at Christmas.
“If I can find a two-and-a-half-mile race on a left-handed track in the new year I might wait for that.”
High-class two miler Ornua looks set for a trip across the Irish Sea for the either the Tingle Creek at Sandown or the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
Should connections opt for the latter event over Christmas, he could be joined in the horsebox by esteemed stablemate Monalee – who may line up for the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase.
De Bromhead was content with his comeback run when third behind Douvan in the Clonmel Oil Chase last week.
“We were giving 5lb to Douvan, and I don’t think two-and-a-half is our trip – I’m convinced he’s a three miler,” said the trainer.
“He is in the King George. After looking at the results over the weekend, is this year we want to be going for the King George? Probably not. But he’s in it, and we’re considering it.
“I think he’ll improve a lot for the run in Clonmel.”
Balko Des Flos has plenty to prove after disappointing at Thurles recently, but his trainer warned: “Don’t write him off – I’ve no doubt he’ll come back.”
Petit Mouchoir is being aimed at the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, while future plans for Sunday’s Troytown Chase hero Chris’s Dream are dependent on the handicapper’s reaction to his impressive display.
De Bromhead said: “The Thyestes might be interesting, but it depends what the handicapper is going to do.
“I’d say we’re planning for the end of January or early February, and try and get to the spring.”