De Bromhead: No topping spring success, I’m no maverick

For Henry de Bromhead, nothing will ever beat those four weeks in spring when everything he touched seemed to turn to gold.

The Irish raider led the plunder at the Cheltenham Festival in March, taking six graded titles home to his base in County Waterford, including becoming the first trainer to land the triple crown – the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup.

As Minella Indo rounded off a remarkable week for the team, De Bromhead felt he was still dreaming, but the story had another chapter to come at Aintree 22 days later.

Henry De Bromhead stable tour

Henry de Bromhead has a whole host of stars to look forward to this season, including Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo

Fresh from being crowned leading rider at the Festival, Rachael Blackmore returned to UK shores to once again form a devastating partnership with De Bromhead, as Minella Times landed the Grand National.

Reflecting on those wild few days, De Bromhead told Sky Sports Racing: “It was mad, the whole thing. We’d had a familiar season up until then, with plenty of ups and downs and plenty of disappointments.

“We were going well heading to Cheltenham, hoping for one winner as usual and then what unfolded was just incredible. I never believed it could have happened but thankfully it did and it was an amazing few days.

“Then a few weeks later with Minella Times in the Grand National, it was a crazy few weeks. Everything fell right for us.”

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Was I blown away with her at the start? Not in the first couple of weeks
De Bromhead on Rachael Blackmore

Victory on Merseyside catapulted De Bromhead’s team onto the front pages of every national newspaper, with much focus on Blackmore, who became the first female jockey to ride the winner of the world’s most famous race.

“She’s a brilliant rider and we’re very lucky to have her,” De Bromhead said. “She is one of the top riders in England and Ireland.

“All the success she gets, she deserves every little bit of it. She has worked so hard to get to where she is and yet it doesn’t affect her.

“My 12-year-old son has been at me wanting to school and it was Rachael who gave him all the tips on his first time schooling a racehorse over hurdles. She is very down to earth and a real team player.

“She rode her way into working with us. Was I blown away with her at the start? Not in the first couple of weeks, but in week three or four things started to really move along and you could see how brilliant she was. She’s fine-tuned it ever since then.”

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De Bromhead says jockey Blackmore deserves every bit of success she gets and feels ‘lucky’ to have her as part of his team

De Bromhead is also still fine-tuning his craft, having taken over the reins in 2000 from his father Harry, himself a Cheltenham Festival winner with Fissure Seal in 1993.

“Mum and Dad were brilliant and I still go to them for advice now and they get some kick out of it all,” De Bromhead revealed. “I get texts from them after every race, saying: ‘Very good’ or ‘very impressive’.

“My dad would have had a huge influence, my wife Heather also, but none of it would have been achieved without the team we have here and the horses we have been given.

“I don’t know if I’m a maverick but he [Dad] was unorthodox and I’ve definitely taken things that he used to do.

“You try and learn things as you go along, every day you learn something new and we’re always tweaking. It is years of trying to get it as right as we can and we’re still a long way from it.”

I think I’d self-combust if we had any more. I’m very happy with what we’ve got.
Henry De Bromhead on his yard size

One secret ingredient to much of De Bromhead’s success is horse yoga, of sorts.

The Knockeen handler is keen to put extra emphasis on getting his horses to jump well, which often involves using loose schooling techniques as well as dressage work.

“In my view, no horse can jump unless they can arch their back,” De Bromhead said.

“With loose schooling you are teaching them to think for themselves and get confidence.

“With the dressage work, I compare that to Pilates or yoga, which I know Brian O’Driscoll and Ryan Giggs used to do and they said that prolonged their career. It’s all about the core and we find that can really help the horses.”

De Bromhead celebrates after A Plus Tard’s victory in the Betfair Chase at Haydock

For all his success, De Bromhead, who Gigginstown racing manager Eddie O’Leary once described as having “a serious steel core”, presents a humble and down-to-earth persona, none more so than when quizzed about his long-term aims.

“I suppose you have to be fairly tough to survive in any business,” De Bromhead said. “I don’t know about being tough to the core but we’re just trying to survive.”

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Asked how he can top last season’s success, the trainer replied: “You don’t. If we can keep going as we are, not like last spring, but if we can just keep tipping away then I’ll be very happy.”

What about ambitions to compete with giants Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins for champion trainer in Ireland? “No, no. We wouldn’t have the numbers. That’s it now, we have our numbers and that’s what I can manage. I think I’d self-combust if we had any more. I’m very happy with what we’ve got.”

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