King Henry Rules With Gold Cup One-Two

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Minella Indo leads home A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup | racingfotos.com

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The crowning moment in an extraordinary week for Henry de Bromhead was provided by not one but two horses when Minella Indo (Ire) (Beat Hollow {GB}) beat his stable-mate A Plus Tard (Fr) (Kapgarde {Fr}) in steeplechasing's greatest prize, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The victory of Barry Maloney's 8-year-old also wrote de Bromhead's name in the history books as the first person to train the winners of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup in the same year. 

“This is crazy stuff, it's not reality,” said the trainer as his voice became increasingly hoarse in a week which his stable has provided six winners at Cheltenham, including the two champion mares Honeysuckle (GB) (Sulamani {Ire}) and Put The Kettle On (Ire) (Stowaway {Ire}) and one of the most exciting novice hurdlers in training, Bob Olinger (Ire) (Sholokhov {Ire}).

He continued, “It's massive. As we always say, it's the Olympics, the pinnacle, and it confirms why I sometimes get so frustrated at home when you go out and it's so competitive and you're getting beaten with good horses.”

The trainer's stable in Knockeen, Co Waterford now houses plenty of Ireland's leading jumpers and, though de Bromhead has tasted success as the Festival in the past, most notably with two previous Champion Chase winners, this is the first time he has finished the week at the head of the trainers' list, equal with Mullins on six wins. The latter may have been given the nod on countback for the number of second-place finishers but there was no doubting that it was de Bromhead who was the dominant force at Prestbury Park throughout the four days.

He has rightly had to vie for the headlines this week with the jockey who rides the majority of his horses, Rachael Blackmore, who also broke new ground as the first woman to be leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival. Her six winners, however, did not include the Gold Cup, as she stayed true to A Plus Tard, who gave Blackmore her first Cheltenham winner two years ago. Instead, 21-year-old Jack Kennedy added an important update to his own burgeoning CV with his surefooted victory on Minella Indo, by far the most significant of his four wins this week. 

With the King George VI Chase winner Frodon (Fr) (Nickname {Fr}) setting off in front in his customary fashion under Bryony Frost, Kennedy had Minella Indo handy throughout the course of the Gold Cup, never far off the leading pack which included Black Op (Ire) (Sandmason {GB}) and Kemboy (Fr) (Voix Du Nord {Fr}) for the first circuit. Going clear second behind Frodon six fences from home, Minella Indo made his challenge while freewheeling down the hill as A Plus Tard and Al Boum Photo (Fr) (Buck's Boum {Fr}), the Gold Cup winner of the last two years, crept closer. 

Kennedy made his decisive move on the turn, taking his mount to the lead into the straight with two to jump but being chased hard all the way by Blackmore on A Plus Tard. Just over a length separated the pair at the line, with another four lengths back to the defending champion Al Boum Photo.

“It's ridiculous but you know what, it's all down to the crew at home, they work so hard, and to all our clients,” de Bromhead said. “We couldn't do it without the horses. And you want to achieve it for them. They put their faith in us.”

He continued. “[Minella Indo] has always been a brilliant jumper and he was brilliant at Navan and then we went to Leopardstown first time out and he just made a silly mistake. The Irish Gold Cup was probably never really the plan but we needed a clear round after falling.

“A Plus Tard was amazing, he ran a cracker for the Thompsons and Cheveley Park; both jockeys were amazing, it's just brilliant. Rachael did have the choice of the two. I would always try to stay out of that as I would hate to put her the wrong way. I couldn't split them. I just let her do it and I don't like to interfere. She knew they were both training well.”

De Bromhead added, “Nothing seems to faze Jack but he actually looked emotional then when he came in, which was a surprise.”

Though only 21, Kennedy's career has been blighted by injuries, including breaking his leg four times. Declaring his Gold Cup win the “best day of my life”, he added, “You dream about winning these sorts of races when you're a child. I know I'm still young, but I suppose I have been in the position where I could have been winning them for a couple of years, so to get it done is brilliant.

“I missed last year's Festival because I broke [my leg] about two months beforehand, but thankfully I've had a year this year that I'll remember for a long time.”

Blackmore Triumphs—Again

Gold Cup day kicked off with a familiar ring to it: Rachael Blackmore winning in the Cheveley Park Stud colours for Henry de Bromhead.

Last month Quilixios (GB) became the first Grade 1 winner over jumps for Maxios (GB), the Niarchos-bred Monsun (Ger) half-brother to Arc winner Bago (Fr) (Nashwan) who was recruited by Coolmore's Castle Hyde Stud last year from Gestut Fahrhof. Quilixios has now added a Cheltenham Festival victory to his record after another attacking, front-running ride from Blackmore saw him claim glory in the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle over the David Pipe-trained Adagio (Ger) (Wiener Walzer {Ger}).

The juvenile hurdler was one of eight horses moved from Gordon Elliott's stable a fortnight ago along with Wednesday's G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper winner Sir Gerhard (Ire) (Jeremy), who was switched to Willie Mullins.

Speaking after saddling his fifth winner of the Festival, Henry de Bromhead said, “Quilixios is a gorgeous horse: obviously we have just got him. We're delighted for the Thompsons of Cheveley Park, they are great supporters of ours.”

He continued, “Rachael was brilliant on him, and all credit to Gordon [Elliott] and his team; the horse looked amazing when he came down to us. We've done very little—it's down more to them than to us. Everyone was very helpful, we knew he jumped really well and obviously we've seen him a good bit, and he's been really impressive. He's just a lovely horse to do anything with, gorgeous-looking, lots of size and scope, and will be a lovely chaser in time, I'd say.”

Reflecting on Blackmore becoming the first female to be leading jockey at Cheltenham, he added, “We all know how good Rachael is; we've always said how lucky we feel to have her on our team. She's riding out of her skin. 

“It was Eddie O'Leary who recommended her to me nearly three years ago and we said we'd try it out. We were trying her on the Gigginstown horses, and within two or three months she was practically riding all of ours, she was so good. She's a great person and works very hard, is really good to work with and a brilliant rider.”

Cheveley Park Stud Jumping For Joy

With six runners at the Cheltenham Festival, the Thompson family's Cheveley Park Stud ended the week as leading owner, with a remarkable three winners and two seconds. The one blot on the week was the fall of the strongly fancied Envoi Allen (Fr) (Muhtathir {GB}), a winner at the last two Festivals who was thankfully unscathed after his tumble in the G1 Marsh Novices' Chase. Ballyadam (Ire) (Fame And Glory {GB}) was second to the hugely impressive Appreciate It (Ire) (Jeremy) in the opening G1 Supreme Novices' Hurdle before Sir Gerhard (Ire) (Jeremy) and Allaho (Fr) (No Risk At All {Fr}) won their respective Grade 1 contests and A Plus Tard capped the week with a valiant runner-up finish in the Gold Cup.

The select string of jumpers owned by the Newmarket-based stud with a long history of breeding top-class Flat horses was accrued in recent years by the late David Thompson, who died in December.

Cheveley Park Stud's mangling director Chris Richardson said, “It's been absolutely amazing. I know Patricia Thompson and Richard and the whole family are so overwhelmed and obviously thrilled. They are saddened in that David wasn't here to see it all and to witness such a special occasion, but it is a great tribute to him and his memory.

He continued, “Ballyadam is as game as a pebble and if he hadn't misjudged that two out, he wouldn't have beaten the winner but he would have been a bit closer, and that was a great start for the Cheveley Park runners.

“To have 16 National Hunt horses in training and to have six running throughout the week in six Grade 1 races was a phenomenal feat really. Envoi Allen was obviously very sad but he made a mistake and thankfully he and Jack [Kennedy] were both okay afterwards. A lot of these young horses have plenty of miles in them hopefully. 

“A Plus Tard is a beautiful horse and we were thrilled when he won the Savills that he showed that he stayed, and [the Gold Cup] was always the plan. I am delighted for Henry de Bromhead that he had the first and the second, and obviously Racheal [Blackmore] has been fantastic in every way. She's a brilliant jockey and she reads races so well. She times everything to perfection and she's a great ambassador for the industry so we're thrilled for her.”

Richardson added, “The race of the week for us was obviously Allaho, who is a fine individual and once again he was ridden beautifully. He just ran them into the ground—all those Grade 1 winners behind him—it was just a phenomenal performance and he has certainly stepped up wonderfully on his progression through his racing to this point.

“Of course it was very sad that owners couldn't be there. It would have been lovely if Richard  Thompson and Patricia Thompson could have been there, especially having won the bumper for the third year in a row, which is a bit of a link to the Flat. But to be leading owner is a tribute to David Thompson. It's something he instigated three years ago, and he obviously committed a lot of money to it but he was well advised. I compliment Tom Malone and Alex Elliott, and obviously the trainers who guided us with the various purchases. It's a 'pinch yourself' moment really.”

Cromwell At The Double

Gavin Cromwell brought a team of five horses with him from his base in Co Meath and will return home with two Grade 1 winners on the lorry after Vanillier (Fr) (Martaline {GB}) landed the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in the hands of Mark Walsh. This followed Thursday's Stayers' Hurdle victory of Flooring Porter (Ire) (Yeats {Ire}), and on both occasions the horses should have been ridden by Jonathan Moore, who stood himself down from action on Thursday morning following a race fall on Sunday. 

“It's tough for Johnny but the good thing is he'll be back on these horses for the future,” said Cromwell.

He added of the 6-year-old Vanillier, who dominated the three-mile contest and bounded up the hill for a 11-length victory, “He's a proper staying chaser in the making. I wasn't sure how he was going to act on that better ground; he's been running on heavy ground in Ireland all year, and he's quite a slow horse, but Mark said he travelled with loads of enthusiasm today. He lined him up good and handy, because we thought he might struggle to travel early, but he showed an extra gear there that he hasn't shown before, and we know he stays really well.”

Ireland All The Way

With Willie Mullins winning the final two races of the Festival to oust Henry de Bromhead with six wins and seven seconds, he was crowned leading trainer at the Festival for a record eighth time.

But plenty of Irish trainers can take credit for their country's record-breaking haul throughout the week. The 23 victories for Ireland were spread between 10 different trainers, which included first Cheltenham wins for Denise Foster, Ian Ferguson, Paul Hennessy, Emmet Mullins and Peter Fahey. By contrast, four British trainers won just five of the week's 28 races.

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