Henry de Bromhead has arguably marked himself out as one of the top three Irish trainers in horse racing in recent years, and it is thought many of his hopes for Cheltenham have a solid chance of success, with his horses having seen plenty of backing in the run up to the festival.
Two horses trained by de Bromhead go on Champion Day, with Some Plan set to line up for the Arkle Chase alongside stablemates Three Stars and Ordinary World. Henry is under no illusions as to the challenge that Altior presents, but he made it very clear that he has his eyes firmly on the prize, saying “He’s going to be hard to beat. But I hate going out running for second, I hate that train of thought. You run to win and that’s it.”
In spite of this, the nine year old gelding has seen mostly each-way backing and is still priced at an attractive 14/1. In his last run at the Arkle Novice Chase at Leopardstown in January, Some Plan was the sole finisher after Ruby Walsh was unseated from Royal Caviar two lengths clear and over the final fence, which saw Some Plan claim Grade One honours for the first time.
Perhaps the best backed of the de Bromhead horses going to the festival is Petit Mouchoir, who should go in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, priced 5/1. In his last race the six year old set a relentless gallop to see off his rivals and claim the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, following up on his course and distance success in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas.
Grand National-winning jockey David Mullins guided the gelding to victory and said of Petit Mouchoir “He’s a bit of a monster, he just doesn’t know when to stop. The speed we went today, I don’t think I’ve ever gone as fast, anyway. He still wanted to go a stride quicker, he’s got some engine and no real flaws.”
Another de Bromhead trained horse well-fancied at the festival is Champagne West, who is set to go in the Gold Cup on Friday and many believe his chances are stronger than his 16/1 price suggests. Last run at Gowran Park in January, the nine year old produced a brilliant display in the Goffs Theyestes Chase to run out a wide-margin winner. Lumbered with a big weight at 11st 7lb, the gelding still carried David Mullins to a comfortable victory by seven and a half lengths.
Asked about the victory de Bromhead said “David gave him a brilliant ride, as he’s not easy. He sat so quietly on him, which we hoped was key to him. We’ve done a fair bit of work with his jumping, but it’s there and it’s just as much confidence as well.”
He added: “Off 154 you probably need to be a Grade One horse and hopefully he might be.”
The Irish trainer may well have some more strength and depth to his team going into the festival this year than any before, but he’s too experienced to pre-empt any victories. Asked about his chances “It’s easy to enter them,” he said. “It’s a bit harder when you get there.”