A Plus Tard, Bob Olinger, Envoi Allen, Honeysuckle and Minella Indo! Find out the latest update from Henry de Bromhead on plans for his stable stars, as well as his thoughts on their recent performances.
Henry de Bromhead remains keen to head to next month’s Savills Chase at Leopardstown with A Plus Tard after so far failing to find an obvious reason for his disappointing return to action at Haydock on Saturday.
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding was a brilliant winner of the Betfair Chase 12 months ago and was unsurprisingly a short price to double up on his first start since claiming Gold Cup glory in March.
But A Plus Tard failed to travel or jump with his trademark enthusiasm and Rachael Blackmore pulled him up early in the home straight.
De Bromhead remains perplexed by the performance – but if nothing comes to light over the coming days he will put a line through it and move on.
A Plus Tard was pulled up when beaten in the Betfair Chase on Saturday
“Nothing (has shown up) as yet. I just saw him this morning and he trotted out perfect,” the County Waterford handler said on Monday.
“We just don’t know at the moment. Our vet was doing a lot of things with him this morning and I haven’t spoken to him since.
“His bloods have been checked and his heart. His bloods were done last Monday and they were perfect, I think the racecourse checked his heart straight after and he scoped and he was perfect.
“He’s moving perfect. People were saying he was a bit reluctant to go down to the start, I didn’t see that. Genuinely I don’t know.”
It was put to De Bromhead that perhaps A Plus Tard was still feeling the effects of his Gold Cup success eight months ago, but he finds it difficult to subscribe to that theory given how well he had been working in his preparation.
He added: “I’d say you always have a hard race in the Gold Cup, but he came back looking great, we were delighted with him and his work has been amazing. He worked really well 10 days or two weeks ago.
“Could it be as simple as the ground? I definitely felt we didn’t travel as well or jump as well as we did last year, or as we normally would, but he can do that – I thought in the Gold Cup at stages he wasn’t blowing me away.
“I just hoped like in the previous year he locked on turning in and I thought for a little bit he was starting to travel, but he got in tight to one of them and that was it.
“Rachael said she was never happy and I felt it was too bad to be down to the ground. We’re stunned really about it.”
De Bromhead is not giving up hope of making the Savills Chase on December 28, a race A Plus Tard won two years ago and finished a close second to Galvin in last season.
He said: “You’ve still got the guts of six weeks to the Savills Chase. We’d love to go there once we feel he’s right, but obviously we’ll be doing every test we can between now and then to make sure he’s right.
“Of course you’d prefer to have a reason, without it being a career-ending one, but sometimes you don’t and they come back anyhow.”
De Bromhead remains hopeful Bob Olinger’s “savage engine” remains fully intact ahead of a planned outing at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.
The seven-year-old looked a superstar in the making when sprinting up the Cheltenham hill to win the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham two years ago, but has struggled to rediscover that brilliance.
He won his first three starts over fences last term, but was fortunate to double his Festival tally in the Turners’ Novices’ Chase after the dramatic final fence exit of Galopin Des Champs, and he was pulled up on his final start of last season at Punchestown.
Watch how Bob Olinger fared on his return to hurdling his month
Bob Olinger reverted to the smaller obstacles on his reappearance in Navan’s Lismullen Hurdle earlier in the month and looked back to his best when travelling to the front, but he was reeled in by surprise winner Home By The Lee on the run-in.
Reflecting on that performance, De Bromhead said: “I was disappointed, and that was probably unfair on the winner.
“I looked at the betting and he wasn’t one of the obvious dangers, but I hadn’t see his form and he was only beaten six or seven lengths in the Stayers’ Hurdle and I think he just outstayed us.
“With these horses that run three or four times a season, we try to have them as right as we can for their first run, but he was a piece of work shorter. This isn’t an excuse, but just before the last you could see it just took its toll.
“He’s a very, very good work horse and he’s shown it on the track before. Hopefully he just needed the run the other day as on raw ability he’d be right up there with the best we’ve had.”
Bob Olinger has options over two and three miles at Leopardstown, with the three-mile Christmas Hurdle – which will this year be named in memory of De Bromhead’s late son, Jack – the favoured option.
“I would be leaning towards the three-mile race at Christmas, I think it might help his jumping as well, but then he was only just beaten by Ferny Hollow over two miles in a maiden hurdle,” the trainer added.
“I don’t really have a reason why (he disappointed) over fences. I suppose hurdles are just easier to get from A to B over and when you have an engine like he has, the most important thing is to be able to utilise the engine – and he has a savage engine.”
The leading Irish handler is full of hope Kempton and the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase will prove the perfect spot for Envoi Allen.
Seen as a superstar in waiting in the early part of his career and twice a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, he has met with a few bumps in the road after switching to fences but is still a three-time Grade One winner over the bigger obstacles and was third in last season’s Champion Chase.
He moved back up to three miles at Down Royal earlier this month and showed he is again going to be a force in winning the Ladbrokes Champion Chase.
Envoi Allen got back to winning ways in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase
De Bromhead said: “After the Durkan last year, I said I was going back to two miles and in fairness he won his Grade One, but probably a weak one in Leopardstown.
“He ran well in the Champion Chase, but obviously I got the trip completely wrong. It might be a blessing in disguise as he’s in mighty form now and was really good the other day.
“I think we plan to go to the King George and then we’ll see after that – that’s the main aim.
“We can sharpen his jumping up a little bit. We’re so used to him being so extravagant, but maybe over three miles, going that stride slower he’s not as exuberant.
“I think the way his wind is, he needs nice-ish ground – I’d be more concerned if it came up very soft.
“I loved the way he ran through the line at Down Royal and travels really well. Unlike with Minella Indo last year going to Kempton where I thought ‘I have to force this’, I presume this guy will just travel away in behind them. Hopefully it will suit him.”
He added: “Robbie Power was adamant we had to try three miles and Down Royal was the obvious race. He’s been a great addition to the team, he’s got so much experience and so much knowledge, (but) he’s not riding out, that’s not for him any more.”
De Bromhead will retain his focus on Honeysuckle as he prepares his unbeaten mare to challenge for an unprecedented fourth success in the Bar One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
There has been plenty of discussion around the relative merits of the dual Champion Hurdle winner and the chief pretender to her throne, the impressive Supreme winner Constitution Hill, since the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Much was made of the comparative times of Constitution Hill’s 22-length victory over Jonbon and Honeysuckle’s three-and-a-half-length verdict over Epatante, with the novice coming home six seconds quicker in a race with a stronger earlier pace.
Honeysuckle made it 16 from 16 on her latest outing
Constitution Hill currently heads the Champion Hurdle market and when asked about Willie Mullins’ view that Honeysuckle is overpriced, De Bromhead said: “I don’t know, I’m not a punter, it’s not for me to comment.
“Obviously you can see why people would support Constitution Hill as he was so impressive and his times and all the various things we gauge different races on you can understand that.
“But I suppose on the other hand, she’s been there, done it all and stood the test of time.
“(Time) is a very important factor for people. I probably don’t know enough about it, I suppose it has to be a factor and gauge, but I suppose the faster they go for Honey, the better she is as well.
“If you think of the Hatton’s Grace last year when she had it won about half a mile from home, they had gone a ferocious gallop so the faster they go, the more it will suit her.
“She just seems to be able to do it, no matter what – no matter what the ground, the trip, the pace, she always seems to do it. That’s how I would look at it.
“All we can do is keep trying to have her as right as we can, try and beat who we can and if someone can beat us, fair play to them. We’ve had some spin with her.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, all we can do is keep getting her there as best we can.”
Honeysuckle equalled Limestone Lad, Solerina and Apple’s Jade by registering her hat-trick in the Hatton’s Grace last year, beating Ronald Pump by eight lengths having been made to battle for a half-length win by that same horse in 2020.
De Bromhead reports his star to be in fine form for her December 4 engagement, but admits the acid test will come on raceday as the mare shoots for a 17th successive victory in what is set to be her final season.
He said: “Rachael (has) schooled her, she was brilliant and she seems really well, her work is good. She’s got one more sort of bigger piece to do and then on to the Hatton’s Grace.
“At home, I wouldn’t push them to that (level) that I could tell you (whether they are in similar form to last year), I’ll see that on the day. You’re not really going to push them to that limit, those good horses, at home.
“We’re on that same programme (as last year).”
With a perfect record that encompasses 12 Grade One victories already, De Bromhead feels Honeysuckle is already assured of her status as one of the greats – irrespective of what she achieves this term.
He added: “I think she should (go down as one of the greats), just for what she’s done already, I think she’s entitled to.”
De Bromhead also had an update on Minella Indo, winner of the Gold Cup in 2021 and second to stablemate A Plus Tard in March.
He was pulled up at Punchestown in April, but his trainer believes he should not be overlooked when the big races are mentioned.
Relive Minella Indo's victory in the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup
“The plan at the moment is to go to Tramore on New Year’s Day and we’ll see then after that,” he said.
“He’s in great form and worked really well the other day. He was second last year (in the Gold Cup) and he’s lightly-raced.
“Obviously his run at Punchestown was disappointing, but I’d say he gave his all at Cheltenham and that’s where we’re aiming for.”
Bob Olinger is one of a host of Cheltenham Festival winners for De Bromhead in recent years, with Minella Indo and A Plus Tard providing him with back-to-back victories in the Gold Cup and Honeysuckle a dual winner of the Champion Hurdle.
The Knockeen maestro has been towards the top of the training tree for some time, but admits even a few years ago he thought he might never win two of the sport’s crown jewels.
De Bromhead said: “When I started I wanted to have a winners and try to eke a living, I suppose.
“When Sizing Europe virtually pulled up in the Champion Hurdle (in 2008) I thought that was my opportunity of winning a Champion Hurdle gone, and when Sizing John (formerly with De Bromhead before being moved to Jessica Harrington) won the Gold Cup I thought that was my chance of a Gold Cup gone.
“It’s incredible, but that’s down to everyone here, all the team and all our owners.”
One of the biggest influences on De Bromhead’s career is Sir Mark Prescott, for whom he spent two years as assistant in Newmarket.
De Bromhead was thrilled to see Prescott enjoy a career-defining win of his own with Alpinista in last month’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, saying: “Back in the day he used to have his assistants for two years.
“He’d beat you down for the first year and then he’d have you like King Kong going out after the second year!
“He’s an amazing man and it was fantastic to see him win the Arc. He’s a brilliant trainer and a fascinating man as well.
“He was brilliant to learn from. A couple of years ago after we’d had a bit of success he said ‘you know Henry, I still haven’t seen you put it all down to me!’. I said ‘I know Sir Mark, but that’s my secret weapon – I don’t want to give it all away!’.
“He asked when I was there and I said it was for some of his great years with horses like Pivotal and Red Camellia and I said ‘actually Sir Mark, I’m not sure you’d have achieved all that without me!’.”
Off the track it has been a difficult year for the De Bromhead family following the tragic death of Jack de Bromhead in September following a pony racing accident.
A huge part of the team is, of course, history-making jockey Rachael Blackmore and De Bromhead has praised her for her support.
He said: “We’ve all said what an amazing jockey she is and she’s an incredible person as well. She just naturally says the right thing and she’s just a really good person.
“But to see her around when we had our tragedy, around the children and with their friends and all of us – she’s an incredible person apart from being a brilliant jockey.”
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