Great things have come to the man who waited 5 months ago

Great things have come to the man who waited

Irish racing was, not too long ago, dominated by Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott to the extent that it was deemed a two-horse-race.

The rich owners came to them and the small yards, well, aside from the odd handicap or an aberration, they were in for a baron few years in the land of the big dog.

Advertisement

The results at this year's Cheltenham festival, where Irish trainers like Gavin Cromwell and Paul Nolan and Peter Fahey and Noel Meade and co. all joined the party, didn't just defy that theory but made a stone-cold mockery of it.

In total, ten Irish trainers reached the winners enclosure in our most successful festival yet but of the ten, there has been one stand-out handler, one trailblazer a law unto himself and that's Waterford's Henry De Bromhead, who has turned the 2021 National Hunt season into his own personal tribute show.

Looking back on his string of achievements here, the morning after the Aintree Grand National, it dawns on you that the likes of it may never happen again.

It started off with his stable-star, when the undefeated Honeysuckle turned the Champion Hurdle into a cakewalk with her partner in crime Rachael Blackmore. To win a Champion Hurdle alone would make a season but De Bromhead was only getting going. The Champion Chase was on its way to Waterford the next day when Put The Kettle On won a burn-up with Aidan Coleman. Then there was the Gold Cup, the race every jockey, owner and trainer dreams of, and De Bromhead stealing the show with a Minella Indo, A Plus Tard 1-2.

He praises the jockeys and horses. The jockeys praise him and the horses. The truth is they all have a part to play but none-more-so than the trainer, who builds a team around them and sets it all up so that the big days might just happen, big days like the days of 2021.

Advertisement

If the Gold Cup is the best national hunt race of all, then the Aintree Grand National is the most iconic. Years of folklore invigorate that famous April Saturday but De Bromhead was undaunted, his horses thriving on the big stage yet again with Balko Des Flos and Minella Times sealing another almighty 1-2. The icing on the cake of a spectacular season.

De Bromhead has never been a pawn in the game but it wasn't always like this. You'd only have to go back five years to 2016, when as a budding if not dominating trainer, his Knockeen stables suffered a monumental setback with his main owners Alan and Ann Potts taking their 13 horses out of his yard.

The blow will have really hit home just five months later, when the departed Sizing John won the Gold Cup for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power. There was no bitterness here though, De Bromhead taking it on the chin with trademark dignity and grace.

Advertisement

"Itโ€™s great we helped the Potts realise their ambition to win the Gold Cup. Itโ€™s the one Alan always said he wanted to win. Itโ€™s a pity we didnโ€™t get to finish, it but Iโ€™m delighted for them, for Jessie and for Robbie,โ€ he said in a commendable interview afterwards.

By the following year, he was making waves again with Special Tiara and the previously mentioned Balko Des Flos winning big at the festival - his first Cheltenham wins outside of the Potts colours, the tide turning his way.

Horses like Honeysuckle, Minella Indo, Petit Mouchoir and Bob Olinger meanwhile, have kept the Dรฉise fire burning in the last few years and while the achievements are dazzling, De Bromhead remains mild-mannered and strikingly unassuming. Each interview is taken care of with the modesty of a road-sweeper and with a smile on the face.

"I just feel so fortunate. I've always dreamed of winning a race like this, but it would have been a distant dream," he said in typical fashion after Saturday's great win.

Advertisement

It's no distant dream anymore. Great things have come to the man who waited.