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Darragh O'Keeffe backs A Plus Tard for the Gold Cup

Darragh O'Keeffe has backed A Plus Tard to compete at the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March. O'Keef...

Darragh O'Keeffe backs A Plus...

Darragh O'Keeffe backs A Plus Tard for the Gold Cup

Darragh O'Keeffe has backed A Plus Tard to compete at the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.

O'Keeffe joined Friday Night Racing on OTB Sports and outlined why he believes the horse can withstand the challenge of racing longer distances in the coming months.

"I know people said A Plus Tard tried three miles at Punchestown but he was only four years old then," O'Keeffe said.

A Plus Tard ridden by Darragh O'Keefe

"I cannot see any reason why he could not stay the pace at the Gold Cup. He jumps really well, he relaxes into races and the pace he ran at the last day, and the way he finished, you would think he would only benefit from a couple of extra furlongs."

It is expected that A Plus Tard will sidestep the Dublin Racing Festival and head straight for the Gold Cup, according to

O'Keeffe was non-committal about whether or not he will be given the chance to ride A Plus Tard at Cheltenham. However, after his most recent performance, O'Keeffe is hopeful Henry De Bromhead will trust him once more.

"I had no inkling I was going to be riding A Plus Tard"

Before a wonderful victory at the Savills Steeplechase at Leopardstown in December, O'Keeffe had yet to race in a Grade One and it came as a complete surprise to the young jockey that he would be making his debut on a horse of such class.

While there were concerns from pundits about whether A Plus Tard could outlast other excellent horses like Melon and Kemboy, he did so with a flourish.

"He is a very high-class horse," O'Keeffe said.

"It was an unreal feeling really looking down at the declarations on the Saturday [before the race] to see how many rides I had.

"Then we came to the Savills chase and I saw I was on A Plus Tard. It was just unbelievable to see my name down beside him," he continued.

A Plus Tard with jockey Darragh O'Keefe Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The manner in which De Bromhead chose O'Keefe was tactically astute, according to the jockey.

By only informing O'Keeffe close to the race of his decision, De Bromhead managed to alleviate some of the pressure on the 18-year-old.

"It was a good surprise to get, they did not want to put a lot of pressure on us or anything like that," O'Keeffe admitted.

"I had no inkling that I was going to be riding A Plus Tard."

The magic of riding A Plus Tard to victory

The 2020 Savill's Chase has been described by commentators as one of the greatest races to take place on Irish soil.

O'Keeffe admitted that the victory was even more satisfying considering the talent on display at Leopardstown for one of the biggest races during the Christmas season.

"It is unbelievable considering the race that it was," he said.

"After the line, I just could not believe it. This is not an ordinary race. It is as big a race as there is at Christmas."

"When we jumped the second last and got down I gave my lad a shove. I knew I had a bit of ground to make up but he did pick up."

Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

With Melon and Kemboy extremely close by there was no moment were A Plus Tard could relax, according to O'Keeffe.

"Going down to the last I was hoping I would get a good jump but there was no stride there so I kind of sat up. That was when I threw everything at him and he continued to pick up.

"His head was on the floor and he was giving everything he had.

"You never really know when you are going to get there [across the line] until you do," O'Keeffe said.

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A Plus Tard Cheltenham 2021 Gold Cup HRIRacing Horse Racing Leopardstown