Henry de Bromhead

Henry de Bromhead Henry de Bromhead has been training at Knockeen, Co. Waterford since the retirement of his father, Harry, in 1999. In the intervening two decades, he has steadily developed his yard into one of the foremost training operations in Ireland, albeit on a more modest scale than, say, Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott. De Bromhead has built a reputation as an astute and adept trainer and, while he has yet to saddle more than three winners in National Hunt season on this side of the Irish Sea, he has comparatively few runners on British soil.

De Bromhead has saddled four winners at the Cheltenham Festival, starting with Sizing Europe, owned by the late Alan Potts and ridden by Andrew Lynch, in the Arkle Challenge Trophy in 2010. The following season, another horse carrying the familiar red, green and yellow Potts’ colours, Sizing Australia stayed on gamely to win the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase on the Cross Country Course and, a day later, Sizing Europe completed a notable double for the yard when winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Having been beaten on all four starts since winning the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Sizing Europe was sent off 10/1 fifth choice of the eleven runners behind previous dual winner Master Minded at 2/1 favourite. Master Minded was still four lengths behind Sizing Europe when an almighty blunder at the third last fence finally put paid to his chances and the latter stayed on strongly to go clear in the closing stages and beat Big Zeb by 5 lengths. A quizzical de Bromhead said afterwards, ‘It’s just phenomenal. I couldn’t believe it.’

Six years later, de Bromhead was equally incredulous, if not more so, when Special Tiara, owned by Sally Rowland-Williams and ridden by Noel Fehily, took advantage of a major shock to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase again. Despite starting at prohibitive odds of 2/9, favourite Douvan was never jumping with any fluency and was outpaced in the closing stages, eventually trailing in seventh of the ten runners, beaten 11¾ lengths. Special Tiara, running in the race for the fourth time, led the field a merry dance from the fifth fence and, although tackled by eventual runner-up Fox Norton close home, held on gamely to win by a head, all out, at odds of 11/1. De Bromhead aid, ‘…it was hard to believe we could win with Douvan and everything else – Douvan had looked so good.’

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins Co. Carlow trainer Willie Mullins has won the Irish National Hunt Trainers’ Championship and the Leading Trainer Award at the Cheltenham Festival five times in the last eight years so, hopefully, requires little introduction. Admittedly, Mullins has found life more difficult since Gigginstown Stud, owned by Michael O’Leary, removed all 60 of its horses from his yard in September, 2016, following a dispute over training fees. Nevertheless, when Laurina effortlessly went clear to win the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle by 18 lengths in 2018, to record his seventh success of the week, he officially became the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival with 61 winners, one ahead of Nicky Henderson.

Mullins saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Tourist Attraction, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1995 but, despite his impressive total, it hasn’t all been plain sailing in the interim. Between his forty-eighth winner, Limini in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 and his forty-ninth, Yorkhill in the JLT Novices’ Chase 2017, he actually racked up 25 consecutive losers although, in typical style, he subsequently saddled the winners of three of the remaining six races on the card.

Mullins has won the Champion Hurdle four times, with Hurricane Fly in 2011 and 2013, Faugheen in 2015 and Annie Power in 2016 and the Stayers’ Hurdle twice, with Nichols Canyon in 2017 and Penhill in 2018. He has yet to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, in the case of the latter event, has saddled the runner-up six times, including On His Own in 2014, who was beaten a short head after being carried across the course by the eventual winner, Lord Windermere, in the closing stages, but wasn’t awarded the race.

Jessica Harrington

Jessica Harrington Jessica Jane Harrington, still known in racing circles as Mrs. John Harrington – her late husband, Johnny, died from cancer in 2014 – was born in London, but trains in Moone, Co. Kildare. Originally a permit holder, Mrs. Harrington first took out a full training licence in 1991 and, nowadays, has the distinction of being the most successful female trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, with 11 winners.

She saddled her first Festival winner, Space Trucker, owned by Mrs. Eileen Queally and ridden by Shay Barry, in the Grand Annual Chase in 1999, but the horse that thrust her into the public eye was Moscow Flyer. Owned by Brian Kearney, Moscow Flyer was a three-time Grade One winner over hurdles in his native land, but became an even better steeplechaser – in fact, with a Timeform Annual Rating of 184, arguably the best to come out of Ireland since the halcyon days of Arkle, Flyingbolt and Mill House – and ran at five consecutive Cheltenham Festivals in that capacity.

On his first appearance, in 2002, he readily won the Arkle Challenge Trophy by 4 lengths from the Martin Pipe-trained favourite, Seebald, and on his second, in 2003, justified favouritism for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with an emphatic, 7-length victory over Native Upmanship, trained by Arthur Moore. Moscow Flyer started odds-on to retain his title in 2004 and was still travelling well within himself when blundering and unseating jockey Barry Geraghty at the fourth last fence. He gained some compensation in 2005, though, when staying on strongly to beat Well Chief, also trained by Martin Pipe, by 2 lengths for a memorable second victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

In 2014, Mrs. Harrington added the Champion Hurdle to her Cheltenham tally, courtesy of Jezki, owned by J.P. McManus and ridden by Barry Geraghty, and has since added the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle with Supasundae, the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Sizing John and the Grand Annual Chase with Rock The World, all in 2017. Of here Gold Cup success, she said, ‘This is the jewel in the crown. I’ve been watching and listening to this for as long as I can remember.’