De Bromhead completes Cheltenham’s ‘Holy Trinity’ with Gold Cup one-two
Jack Kennedy brings home Minella Indo ahead of Rachael Blackmore on A Plus Tard
Henry de Bromhead celebrates after Minella Indo’s win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Photograph: Dan Abraham/Inpho
Overshadowed by Rachael Blackmore for much of the week, Henry de Bromhead secured history in Friday’s Cheltenham Gold when Minella Indo led home a superb one-two for the trainer.
On top of Honeysuckle’s Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, and Wednesday’s Champion Chase for Put The Kettle On, De Bromhead pulled off a unique ‘Holy Trinity’ of Cheltenham’s championship races at a single festival.
Blackmore’s purple patch, which saw her crowned leading rider for the week with six winners, ended on a false step in the biggest race of all, her decision to ride A Plus Tard rather than Minella Indo proving costly for the festival’s star personality.
Jack Kennedy stepped in for the ultimate ‘spare’ and guided the 9-1 winner to a length and a quarter defeat of A Plus Tard with the dual-former winner Al Boum Photo in third.
It was an apt clean sweep at a record-breaking Cheltenham for Irish-trained horses.
The raiders scooped 23 of the week’s 28 races, four more than the previous best tally of 19 in 2017.
It left the home team as desolate as the empty stands at a unique behind-closed-doors festival and for the third day running Irish horses won six of the seven races on Friday.
Having ceded the limelight to his jockey for so long, De Bromhead ultimately put his stamp on the week with a singular accomplishment.
Despite his many other successes over the years, Willie Mullins has yet to win a Champion Chase. Arkle’s trainer Tom Dreaper never won a Champion Hurdle. De Bromhead pulled off the hat-trick in just four days.
Minella Indo’s victory was particularly sweet for the 47-year-old Co Waterford trainer.
In 2016 owner Alan Potts removed his horses from De Bromhead, including Sizing John, who a year later won the Gold Cup for Jessica Harrington
Such a blow could have floored others but rarely has a response yielded such spectacular results as this week’s.
In the colours of well-known businessman Barry Maloney, Minella Indo seemed transformed by a return to Cheltenham after two previous defeats at Leopardstown this season.
“The Gold Cup is what you dream about winning. Any of these races, winners at Cheltenham, I can’t tell you how much they mean, you just dream about it,” said De Bromhead.
“Whatever it is about here, it is a bit like Put The Kettle On, he just comes alive.
“He is fast asleep at home on a daily basis. Even saddling him there he was like he was before the Albert Bartlett [in 2019] kicking the back wall. He was so up for it,” he added.
Kennedy, 21, has mixed a grim series of injuries with huge success in a meteoric career that saw him first win at Cheltenham as a 17-year-old.
He was runner-up to Blackmore in the leading rider award with four winners but beat his rival to the sport’s greatest prize on what the emotional Kerry man described as “the greatest day of my life”.
He said: “I’ve broken my leg four times. I missed last year’s festival because I broke it about two months beforehand. But thankfully I’ve had a year this year that I’ll remember for a long time.”
The Gold Cup put a seal on an incomparable Cheltenham for Ireland, a timely boost for a sport battered by the controversial photo of Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse.
The reverberations from that notorious image continued on Friday when Elliott’s head man and close friend, Simon McGonagle, was disqualified for nine months – with seven months suspended -–at an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board Referrals hearing.
McGonagle, a friend of the trainer since school, said he “foolishly” took the photo on Snapchat in 2019 and sent it to five people. However, it remains unclear who uploaded the image to social media last month.
McGonagle cannot work in racing during his two-month disqualification.
Half a dozen horses that Elliott used to train, and are now either under the care of Denise Foster, or were moved elsewhere, won at Cheltenham.
One of those moved, Quilixios, landed the Triumph Hurdle for De Bromhead and Blackmore on Friday, the 2-1 shot winning for the week’s leading owners, Cheveley Park Stud.
Jockey Jonathan Moore’s injuries cost him another Grade One when Vanillier landed the Albert Bartlett Hurdle under late replacement Mark Walsh.
Moore missed out on Thursday when forced to give up the ride on the Stayers’ Hurdle winner Flooring Porter.
Kevin Sexton enjoyed better luck when he won at the festival for the first time on board the 33-1 outsider Belfast Banter in the County Hurdle.
The final two races followed a more familiar pattern as Willie Mullins scored with both Colreevy and Galopin Des Champs.
He and De Bromhead each saddled six winners during the week. However, Mullins got the leading trainer award for an eighth time having saddled more runners-up.
1 Rachael Blackmore 6
2 Jack Kennedy 4
3 Paul Townend 3
4 Nico de Boinville 2
1 Willie Mullins 6 (wins on countback)
2 Henry de Bromhead 6
3 Denise Foster 3
4 Nicky Henderson 2
5 Gavin Cromwell 2
Ireland 23, Britain 5