Which were the top three staying chasers in 2020-21?
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the obvious starting point for any discussion of the staying chaser division, so it’s no surprise that the first three home in the 2021 renewal topped the ratings for 2020/21, according to Timeform. Stablemates Minella Indo (175) and A Plus Tard (174) gave trainer Henry de Bromhead a notable 1-2 in the premier steeplechase and were followed home by defending champion Al Boum Photo (170); the latter shared third place in the ratings with Punchestown Gold Cup winner Clan Des Obeaux (170).
Minella Indo had suffered an agonising defeat when run down close home by Champ in the RSA Novices’ Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, but returned to action with routine wins, at long odds-on, at Wexford and Navan. However, he fell before halfway when favourite for the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas and was beaten favourite again in the Irish Gold Cup, back at Leopardstown, in February. Indeed, in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was forsaken by regular partner Rachael Blackmore, but defied expectation by staying on gamely to beat A Plus Tard by 1¼ lengths.
A Plus Tard made an inauspicious start to the season when turned over, at odds-on, in the Fortria Chase at Navan for the second year running on his reappearance in November. However, stepped back up to 3 miles, he stayed on strongly to beat Kemboy by half a length in the aforementioned Savills Chase and headed straight to the Cheltenham Festival as the better-fancied of the De Bromhead-trained pair. However, although he briefly moved upsides Minella Indo on the turn for home in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was always fighting a losing battle in the straight and had to settle for a highly creditable second.
Of course, Al Boum Photo won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2019 and 2020 and, having hacked up in his traditional preparatory race, the Savill’s New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore, was made favourite to complete a notable hat-trick. Although denied a slice of racing history, the 9-year-old was carried out on his shield, staying on to finish third, beaten 5½ lengths, but 24 lengths ahead of the fourth horse home, Native River.
In the absence of Minella Indo, sidelined with a bruised foot, Al Boum Photo was also sent off favourite for the Punchestown Gold Cup in April, but was beaten 1½ lengths by Clan Des Obeaux. Clan Des Obeaux had been beaten on his first three starts of the season, in the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and Denman Chase, but had returned to winning ways with a facile, 26-length defeat of Clondaw Castle in the Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree on his previous start.