Flashback: Henry de Bromhead’s magical run at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the racing calendar, where the world’s best horses and trainers come together to compete in some of the toughest and most prestigious races in the sport.
Last year saw a return of a full-capacity crowd after a behind closed doors edition of the Festival in 2021, and the atmosphere inside Prestbury Park was electric. Indeed, the punters assessing the racing odds live made all the difference compared the empty stands that permeated the previous edition of Cheltenham. However, that year away from the crowd was not all doom and gloom for everyone.
In 2021, one trainer stood out above the rest – Henry de Bromhead. The Irish trainer had a spectacular festival, winning six races including the prestigious Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, and Gold Cup. But what made de Bromhead so dominant at Cheltenham? As anticipation builds for this year’s event, let’s revisit the 2021 edition of Cheltenham and look at those magical four days for De Bromhead.
De Bromhead had always been a respected trainer in Ireland, and honed his trade for many years, but it was in 2021 that he truly announced himself on the biggest stage. He arrived at the festival with a strong team of horses from his County Waterford stable, but few could have predicted the level of success he would achieve.
His first victory came in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Festival’s curtain raiser, with Appreciate It. It was a dominant performance, with Appreciate It leading from start to finish and crossing the line 24 lengths clear of the rest of the field. It was a statement of intent and a sign of things to come.
De Bromhead’s next win came in the Champion Hurdle, the feature race on day one of the festival. His horse, Honeysuckle, was the hot favourite going into the race, and she didn’t disappoint. She powered up the famous Cheltenham hill to win by six lengths, cementing her place as one of the best hurdlers in the world. The unbeaten run continued the following year and now Honeysuckle looks to make it three successive wins at Prestbury Park this time around.
Day two of the festival saw de Bromhead win two more races – the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with Bob Olinger and the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Put The Kettle On. Bob Olinger was particularly impressive, winning by six and a half lengths ahead of Bravemansgame and Willie Mullins-trained Gaillard Du Mesnil.
De Bromhead’s dominance continued into the third day of the festival, winning at the double again. The first came in the Ryanair Chase — Minella Indo holding off the challenge of the favourite, Saint Calvados, to win by a length and a quarter. Then, in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, it was Flooring Porter who produced a stunning performance to win by three lengths, pulling clear of the rest of the field in the closing stages.
But de Bromhead saved the best for last. On the final day of the festival, he sent out his horse, Minella Times, to win the biggest race of them all – the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It was a stunning performance, with Minella Times staying on strongly up the hill to beat the favourite, A Plus Tard, by a length and three quarters. It was a moment of pure joy for de Bromhead, who had finally won the biggest race in National Hunt racing.
“I think I’m still in the hotel,” he said. “It’s Monday night and it is the start of the week and nothing has happened as of yet, it’s mad!
“I keep saying it’s amazing but it genuinely is. I was looking at him (Al Boum Photo) thinking he is going to stay on. Jack was brilliant on Indo. He is just such a tough horse. To see him pricking his ears after the second last was great, but it is all down to the crew at home and here.
“They are working so hard and it’s brilliant. The support of all our clients is brilliant. He certainly did (travel well the whole way through). Whatever it is about here, it is a bit like Put The Kettle On, he just comes alive.”