De Bromhead seeking further Cheltenham glory with mix of old and new
Henry de Bromhead will rely on a mixture of some familiar faces and fresh talent at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
The Knockeen handler has enjoyed exceptional Festival results in recent years, securing back-to-back Cheltenham Gold Cup wins with Minella Indo and A Plus Tard in 2021 and 2022 respectively and successive Champion Hurdles with Honeysuckle.
Put The Kettle On, the 2021 Champion Chase victor, Triumph Hurdle hero Quilixios, Ryanair Chase winner Envoi Allen and dual Festival scorer Bob Olinger are others to have taken starring roles for De Bromhead in the last few years, with the trainer having 21 Festival winners on his record.
Honeysuckle bowed out in a blaze of glory in last year’s Mares’ Hurdle while A Plus Tard was retired last month, leaving De Bromhead to look to other quarters this time.
He said: “We’re probably not as strong as previous years but I probably feel that every year to be fair!
“Obviously our galacticos that we had are either a bit older now or have retired, but we have got a lot of nice young horses coming through and we’ll see how we get on.
“I’m not sure (how many we will send) yet, I’d say in and around 20, we try to keep it tight. Hopefully there’s plenty of nice ones there, so we will see how we go.”
Minella Indo is one of those who is back for more, making his sixth Festival appearance as he moves to the cross country sphere in the Glenfarclas Chase.
The 11-year-old has switched disciplines as De Bromhead and owner Barry Maloney look to extend his career, with an initial fourth over the banks course in December raising hopes of a bold Festival showing and a possible subsequent Randox Grand National bid.
The trainer said: “He loved it. We felt we had to go and just give him a taste of it – it’s going to be tough to go there on your first go otherwise. Rachael said he really enjoyed it and obviously he had top weight, but we couldn’t have asked for a better run.
“He’s in good form, we kind of backed off him as he’d been busy enough for one of ours up until then, so we kind of backed off through Christmas, freshened him up and he’s in mighty form now.
“It’s lovely for a horse like him to sort of prolong his career a bit, it’s good fun and not too hard a race I don’t believe and it’s a different way of training. I think it’s great for him, he’s probably not going to compete in Grade Ones so it’s nice.”
Of an Aintree bid, De Bromhead added: “We will see what your handicapper thinks next week (when weights are announced), if we feel he’s giving him a chance, why not? It seems to be a really good route to the National, as Gordon (Elliott) has proved and others.”
Envoi Allen will defend the Ryanair Chase title he won last year and although he has not run since being caught on the line by Gerri Colombe in the Champion Chase at Down Royal back in November, De Bromhead does not see that as a negative.
He said: “I hope (it will be an advantage). That was our plan. He’s had the same number of runs as last year I think but it was just a bit earlier this year, his last run was in November and last year it was the King George, but he’s really well now and that was our plan. He runs well fresh.”
Captain Guinness finished second in last year’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and he will be back for more in the two-mile heat after finishing third to hot favourite El Fabiolo last time on what was something of a fact-finding mission following a previous issue over Christmas.
De Bromhead explained: “He had this atrial fibrillation at Christmas which was really disappointing and he had as a novice. All the tests were done on him, the IHRB did all the tests and he seemed fine, everyone was happy.
“I’d say we rode him the last day just to see where we were and I’d say he lacked a little bit of confidence as well, so it was lovely to see him finish out his race well.
“It’s always in the back of your mind, the fact that it’s happened again, but his run last year was savage so he could be there at a big price hopefully and pick up the pieces from the big guys if anything goes wrong.”
The My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase picture became a little more murky following Marine Nationale’s Leopardstown defeat earlier this month and De Bromhead is happy to roll the dice with Quilixios after he bounced back to form dropped to two miles last time.
He said: “We stepped him up to three (miles) and he never showed up at all.
“He was really good in Naas and I was delighted with him. He jumps really quick and I would say the faster they go, the better for him.”
Telemesomethinggirl was brought down when still travelling well in the 2022 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle and she will tackle that test again, with Slade Steel and Monty’s Star the leading youngsters for the team.
I think our options are open, we probably don't particularly want to take on the winner again so we'll see
Grade Two winner Slade Steel came home a seven-length second to Ballyburn at the Dublin Racing Festival, with the six-year-old shorter in the betting for the two-mile-five-furlong Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle than the two-mile Sky Bet Supreme, although Ballyburn’s destination may inform connections’ thinking.
De Bromhead said: “We had two sort of slogs, certainly the one in Navan looked a bit of a slog, so I didn’t want to go again over two and a half (miles) on heavy ground, so it was nice to run him over two and I thought he acquitted himself well.
“The winner looked good but we will improve for better ground ourselves. I think our options are open, we probably don’t particularly want to take on the winner again so we’ll see.”
Monty’s Star, who sports the Minella Indo colours, has won one of his two starts over fences as he heads into the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
De Bromhead said: “I’m delighted with him and always hoped this would be what he was doing. He’s a big horse and never showed up last year.
“He had a lovely run first time, I thought he was very good the second day and we said we’d go fresh. I don’t think he will mind nicer ground.”
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