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Henry de Bromhead is all set for a stunning Cheltenham Festival with the Irish trainer boasting a bumper squad of stars ready to run at Prestbury Park.
The Waterford-based handler has a huge chance of scooping the Champion Hurdle with unbeaten mare Honeysuckle on his books while the recently arrived Envoi Allen is considered by many to be the banker of this year’s meeting in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
De Bromhead, who has saddled nine Cheltenham Festival winners so far in his career, also has Queen Mother Champion Chase hopes with Notebook and Put The Kettle On while Allaho and Minella Indo will be flying the flag in the Gold Cup.
Paddy Power have taken a closer look at some of his main Grade 1 contenders – and remember, we’re offering non-runner money back on every single race at Prestbury Park so you don’t lose out if your selection withdraws.
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Ballyadam – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
BALLYADAM is one of three Cheveley Park Stud horses to arrive at De Bromhead’s yard recently, and the six-year-old is set to run in the opening race of the 2021 festival – the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
He has it all to do in order to upset antepost favourite Appreciate It, having trailed home the Willie Mullins-trained runner on his last two starts, but he obviously has quality and will be joined by regular partner Jack Kennedy once more.
Henry de Bromhead: “I would imagine we’re leaning towards the Supreme with Ballyadam, but we’ll keep our options open. We also have Irracible and Champagne Gold but I’m not sure yet – we haven’t firmed up on anything yet.
“I’d say Irracible would go for the Supreme, he’s in the County Hurdle but he’ll probably go for the Supreme.”
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Captain Guinness – Arkle Chase
CAPTAIN GUINNESS looked set to give Energumene a real race last time out at Leopardstown but fell in the closing stages, while he was well beaten by the same opponent at Naas in January.
The six-year-old may find himself out of his depth in this year’s Arkle Chase with Shishkin and Allmankind also present, but he could well be in the frame if things go his way.
Henry de Bromhead: “He’s brilliant and is in great form. It was a bit of silly fall in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown at the second last, but he’s been in great form since and he schooled really well the other day, so I’m happy with him and I’m looking forward to running him – I think it will really suit.”
Aspire Tower – Champion Hurdle
ASPIRE TOWER has only been seen twice this season, beating Abacadabras in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal before trailing home Sharjah at Leopardstown in December’s Matheson Hurdle following a couple of errors.
The five-year-old likes to stretch his legs at the front and could be something of a wildcard in a Champion Hurdle that is shaping up to be one of the races of the week.
Henry de Bromhead: “Aspire ran really well at Christmas and we decided to go straight to the Champion Hurdle from there. I’m very happy with him. He’s in great form and we’ve put him away for the Champion Hurdle.”
Honeysuckle – Champion Hurdle
The seven-year-old mare is unbeaten throughout her career, including a Mares’ Hurdle win last year, and the latest victory over Abacadabras was ominously her most impressive yet.
Henry de Bromhead: “She’s going for the Champion Hurdle. That’s the plan, she seems in good form and all is good.
“We were delighted with her at Leopardstown winning the Irish Champion Hurdle. She looks very effective over anything really. All the judges say her last day was her best performance so far. She looks very good over any trip between two to two and a half [miles], thankfully. She’s an amazing mare and we feel very lucky to have her.”
Jason The Militant – Champion Hurdle
JASON THE MILITANT has had a busy campaign, winning on his seasonal reappearance at Fairyhouse before placing in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle and the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle at Down Royal and Punchestown respectively.
He then dropped down in class and was a comfortable victor over Petit Mouchoir in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle, but the Champion Hurdle may be too competitive for him – particularly if the ground is good.
Henry de Bromhead: “Jason The Militant ran really well when he won the Red Mills Hurdle very impressively the other day, so we’ll see with him. He’s probably a bit more dependent on ground, as long as there’s good ease, he’ll probably want soft ground.
“He’s brilliant. He’s done really well and we’re delighted with him. Soft ground is important to him so we’ll monitor the ground. He’ll definitely want it soft if he’s to go.”
Minella Melody – Mares’ Hurdle
MINELLA MELODY is a promising hurdler but has come up against Concertista on her previous two starts, finding the Willie Mullins-trained mare too strong on both occasions.
Prior to that she was not disgraced on her seasonal reappearance when second behind Beacon Edge at Galway, but it would be a major surprise if the seven-year-old can reverse her form against the Mares’ Hurdle antepost favourite at Cheltenham.
Henry de Bromhead: “The Mares’ Hurdle is the plan at the moment. She’s in great form and worked well yesterday.
“She’s a lovely mare and has just been unfortunate to have met Concertista twice this year, but we’re hoping for a good run.”
Bob Olinger – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
The six-year-old was second behind Champion Bumper winner Ferny Hollow on his first start over flights before stepping up in trip and bagging back-to-back wins – the latest being the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle.
Henry de Bromhead: “I’d be leaning towards the Ballymore with Bob Olinger, but we haven’t discussed it with his owners yet. He seems great and we’re delighted with him, and hopefully Cheltenham will suit.
“He’s had three runs and he won his Grade 1 at Naas – the Lawlor’s is a really good race – so I didn’t feel any need to go to the Dublin Festival with him. He’s a good moving horse and works well on good-ish ground, so hopefully he should be fine [if the ground came up quicker].”
Eklat de Rire – Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase
EKLAT DE RIRE was beaten by Foxy Jacks on his maiden hurdles outing last year but has been undefeated since, winning three from three since March 2020.
The seven-year-old made all the running when beating the highly-rated Escaria Ten last time out, but Monkfish is a different proposition in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.
Henry de Bromhead: “He’s two from two so far and is lovely. He’s done nothing wrong this year, and he won his Grade 3 the other day very impressively. He jumps his fences really well, touch wood, and we’ll find out how good he is there and see if we can give Monkfish a race.
“Monkfish has obviously been super impressive, but our lad has been very good as well, so we’ll see on the day. My one concern would be if it’s very good ground, so some rain would be welcome.”
Notebook – Queen Mother Champion Chase
It’s been a tough season for NOTEBOOK so far, with his 12-length victory over Fakir D’oudairies on seasonal reappearance put into perspective by two sound defeats at the hooves of Queen Mother Champion Chase favourite Chacun Pour Soi.
Henry de Bromhead: “I suppose his Cheltenham form would have to be a concern, in fairness. But he’s a very good horse. The first year he ran, he ran in the Ballymore and he’s never looked as good over a trip as he has since we dropped him back to two miles.
“Last year, yes, he was disappointing having set off favourite. He’s coming here off the back of one less run than last year so hopefully that will stand to him. He’s a bit fresher and I would say the better the ground the better his chance.”
Put The Kettle On – Queen Mother Champion Chase
PUT THE KETTLE ON could easily have been aimed at the inaugural Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase – and have a great chance of bolting up – but connections have instead shot higher and are targeting the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
She is three from three over course and distance and will also receive a 7lb mares allowance, so the seven-year-old has a realistic chance of hitting the frame.
Henry de Bromhead: “She loves it over there. She’s just come alive since she started going there and just keeps improving all the time. Obviously she had the option of the Mares’ Chase but we’ve decided to go with the Champion Chase. I suppose the records of Arkle winners are so strong and we’ve got our mare’s allowance so we’ve said we’ll give it a go.
“She was brilliant in the Shloer Chase obviously and then she ran very well at Leopardstown. We were planning to go to Kempton but obviously with COVID we weren’t allowed to travel, so we were never convinced Leopardstown was going to be ideal for her. But she still ran really well. As we all know she just loves Cheltenham, so hopefully that’ll improve her a couple of pounds as well.”
Envoi Allen – Marsh Novices’ Chase
Like Honeysuckle, ENVOI ALLEN is also unbeaten throughout his career and actually has a longer undefeated run – 11 races – than his new stablemate.
He is the antepost favourite for the Marsh Novices’ Chase and already has two wins at the Cheltenham Festival under his belt, having scooped the Champion Bumper and last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Henry de Bromhead: “He’s a gorgeous horse and we feel very fortunate that Cheveley Park have sent him to us. It’s obviously not the circumstances of how you’d like to get horses, but these are the horses everyone’s trying to get and I feel fortunate that Cheveley Park have decided to send them to us. The three that are entered for Cheltenham include Envoi Allen and he seems great.
“They came down and they looked great when they arrived here, so it’s just a case of trying to tick them over and not let the change of regime upset them too much. If we can do as good a job as Gordon [Elliott] has done with them, we’ll be delighted.
“They arrived on Tuesday evening, and we’re just letting them settle in. They’re cantering away. You wouldn’t be working them but they’re hacking away and they’re great. It is a big change for them and you try and keep it as simple as possible but it is a big change. But they seem good and they’ve settled in really well, so we’ll just tick them over and try and get them there in good shape.”
Chris’s Dream – Ryanair Chase
The nine-year-old was just touched off by The Storyteller at Down Royal in October and travelled fluently before fading badly in the fog-affected John Durkan, so stamina remains a question.
Henry de Bromhead: “He was a bit unfortunate to be just chinned at Down Royal in the Champion Chase by The Storyteller, but he’s great and I think we’ll have a go in the Ryanair. He’s done really well and has been brilliant for us, and I think he could run well.”
Quilixios – JCB Triumph Hurdle
The third of De Bromhead’s new Cheveley Park Stud horses, QUILIXIOS is also undefeated in his career to date and has a couple of options at this year’s Cheltenham Festival – the JCB Triumph Hurdle or the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Most recently, the four-year-old beat Saint Sam in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle and shows bags of promise, but will that bubble burst at Prestbury Park?
Henry de Bromhead: “Quilixios is in both the Fred Winter [Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle] and the Triumph. I haven’t really firmed up on that as yet, so we’ll discuss that with Cheveley Park at the time and see what we’d like to do. Quilixios seems good. We’re only hacking away but he seems to have taken it in his stride.”
A Plus Tard – Gold Cup
He has barely run this campaign but mugged Kemboy and Melon in December’s Savills Chase on his second outing, although stamina is still a major concern ahead of the Gold Cup.
Henry de Bromhead: “A Plus Tard was really good in the Savills Chase at Christmas. I am delighted with him. He had a hard enough race there so we decided to put him away for this.
“There aren’t many horses that can win a Grade One over two miles and be in the Gold Cup picture – Kauto Star would be one. He stayed very well at Leopardstown and looked like he needed every inch of it and so hopefully it will all go well for him. It’s going to be a cracking race and very competitive as you would expect.”
Minella Indo – Gold Cup
MINELLA INDO was just pipped to the post by Champ in a thrilling RSA Chase last year but started the season in fine form, winning comfortably at Wexford and Navan before falling in the Savills Chase at Christmas.
A subdued effort in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup has perhaps dampened expectations ahead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but Jack Kennedy will ride and the 2019 Albert Bartlett winner can’t be discounted.
Henry de Bromhead: “Minella Indo is in mighty form now and loves Cheltenham – he comes alive over there and his record is brilliant.
“He has a real live chance. It was tough to get nabbed like he was last year by Champ but that’s Cheltenham – these things happen and there is always drama.”
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widget, while in-copy odds are accurate at the time of publication but subject to change
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL‘S BIG RACES
March 16 – 13.20 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 16 – 13.55 – Arkle Chase latest odds and tips
March 16 – 15.05 – Champion Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 16 – 15.40 – Mares’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 17 – 13.20 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 17 – 13.55 – Festival Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips
March 17 – 15.05 – Queen Mother Champion Chase latest odds and tips
March 18 – 13.20 – Marsh Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips
March 18 – 14.30 – Ryanair Chase latest odds and tips
March 18 – 15.05 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 19 – 13.20 – Triumph Hurdle latest odds and tips
March 19 – 14.30 – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Chase latest odds and tips
March 19 – 15.05 – Gold Cup latest odds and tips
March 19 – 16.15 – Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase latest odds and tips
*Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.
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