Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore show heads to Punchestown as thrilling jumps season comes to end in Ireland
THE past twelve months have been tough on most people.
But for Henry De Bromhead it could not have gone much sweeter.
In fact a new trophy cabinet has probably been ordered to his County Waterford stable.
If becoming the first handler to win the Gold Cup, Champion Chase and Champion Hurdle at one Cheltenham Festival wasn’t enough, De Bromhead went on to saddle home a famous one-two in the Grand National.
And with Rachael Blackmore by his side, De Bromhead is far from done and dusted this campaign. His army of stars roll into Punchestown this week.
Household names Envoi Allen, Minella Indo, Honeysuckle and Bob Olinger are all set and fighting fit for the season finale.
But modest as ever, De Bromhead isn’t one to get carried away.
He said: “The whole thing just feels surreal!
“I was just getting my head around Cheltenham and then we went and won the National. They are the races you grow up watching and dream of having runners in.
"Everyone is sick of my superlatives and I've run out of things to say, it's just brilliant.
"We've all watched the National again, but it's just a busy time of year – we're flat out.
"Hopefully when things calm down after Punchestown we'll be able to savour it even more, but the times we are in we're not able to celebrate much – but that is better for my liver anyhow. If it was a normal Cheltenham, I'm not sure if I'd have even seen Cheltenham!
"Everyone gets on a run, but it is incredible ours has happened now. We've got years of experience in the teams at home, we're always developing, it's a great team, owners have confidence and faith in us and we've brilliant jockeys.
"It's a combination of a lot of things, but no one is more surprised than I am."
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Recent recruit Envoi Allen was a rare De Bromhead star that failed to read the script when he fell in the Marsh Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.
But after settling into life at his new stable, his trainer reckons he’ll be back to his best this week.
He’s set for a mouthwatering clash with Willie Mullins’ crack novice and Cheltenham winner Monkfish in the Champion Novice Chase on the opening day.
De Bromhead said: “Envoi Allen is in great form again and worked really well at the Curragh last week.
"Obviously Cheltenham was unfortunate, it was a novicey mistake but he seems in great form and we're good to go.
“We have got to know him a bit better. He's more settled here. Even schooling him the other morning, he jumped really well, not that he ever did before Cheltenham, but he seems to be really good."
Minella Indo led home a famous stable one-two in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham and his jockey that day Jack Kennedy will again be on board as they target the Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday.
He’s looking to emulate the likes of Kicking King and Sizing John who have gone on to do the double.
De Bromhead said: “He’s been really good since, he's so laid back.
“We backed off for a few days afterwards and he started getting chubby, but we started back with him again and he seems in great form and we're happy with him.
“He's tough and seems to have taken Cheltenham well but the one concern would be he's had quite a few runs this season.
“We said we'd keep him busy this season and this will be his sixth run, which concerns me slightly, but he seems to be in great form."
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Superstar Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle is due to put her growing unbeaten record on the line at Punchestown.
She’ll line up in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle, with the likes of Goshen and Epatante heading over from England to take another crack.
Her trainer continued: “Honeysuckle has come out of Cheltenham really, really well and we're excited about running her again.
“Last year we didn't run after she won the Mares' Hurdle and the year before we didn't go to the Festival so this is the first time we're running her back. But she seems very well and we’re happy with her.”
Honeysuckle could also be joined by stablemates Jason The Militant and Aspire Tower to leave De Bromhead triple-handed.
De Bromhead’s success has been overshadowed by the rise of brilliant Rachael Blackmore.
Neither enjoy the limelight, but it means De Bromhead can pass the praise that comes their way to his star jockey.
Blackmore is still in the hunt at becoming champion jockey in Ireland with Paul Townend having been forced on to the sidelines in recent weeks with an injured foot.
And De Bromhead will give Blackmore all the backing he can as the season nears its conclusion.
He said: “I'm not sure what Paul's situation is, I don't know if he'll be back. It's going to be tough even if he's not back, but we'll be trying to do our best and support her the best we can.
“Everyone can see for themselves what her strengths are. In the National it was like she could see around corners, she saw dangers before they happened.
"She's brilliant to work with and knows how hard you have to work to succeed. She gets on with everyone and knows how to ride winners.
"I've said it all before, but I think she's just brilliant – we're very lucky to have her."
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