For most national hunt racing trainers, winning at Cheltenham Festival is the ultimate dream. Sure, some might prefer the Grand National, and others might have a special affinity for the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, but Cheltenham has become the true epicentre of jumps racing in the 21st century. Winning there is tough, however. In the feature races, particularly, you are going to come up against the best horses in the British Isles in each discipline.
And yet, some trainers can make it look easy on occasion, as was the case with Henry de Bromhead at the 2021 Festival. In March, de Bromhead completed what has been dubbed the “Holy Trinity”, training the winner of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Such a feat had eluded all the great trainers down the years. For example, Willie Mullins, who is the most successful trainer in Cheltenham history, has never won the Champion Chase, and he couldn’t get his hands on the Gold Cup for over two decades before Al Boum Photo came along in 2019.
Special Cheltenham 2021 for de Bromhead
What de Bromhead achieved was remarkable, but could it be repeated again in 2022? If we look back at previous Cheltenham results, we can see the three horses that did the business for de Bromhead: Honeysuckle (Champion Hurdle), Put the Kettle On (Champion Chase) and Minella Indo (Gold Cup). Of that trio, Honeysuckle is the most likely to repeat. The mare is the odds-on favourite for the 2022 Champion Hurdle. Minella Indo is second-favourite for the Gold Cup, but it’s worth noting that de Bromhead has the current favourite too, A Plus Tard. So, a Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup double is a real possibility.
But bookies aren’t so keen on Put the Kettle On. You can’t really say it was a fluke to win the Champion Chase last March. It was a fine ride under Aidan Coleman, and Put the Kettle On had won the Arkle the year previously. But the odds of 25/1 are a testament to indifferent form. Moreover, the two market leaders, Shishkin and Energumene, are considered a class above everyone else in the field. Henry de Bromhead has other entries, like Captain Guinness and Envoi Allen. But the former would be a shock winner, and the latter will probably be aimed elsewhere.
Champion Chase heroics will be difficult to repeat
So, while a Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup look a real possibility for de Bromhead – and you can be sure many punters will back such a double – the Champion Chase looks incredibly difficult. Shishkin, who is trained by Nicky Henderson, is tipped to go head to head with Willie Mullins’ Energumene in what might be the most highly-anticipated battle of the Festival. Still, all-too-often, these showdowns between big names tend to not play out the way we expect, and the door could be left open for a runner like Put the Kettle On or Captain Guinness.
Of course, it’s not only de Bromhead that could do the hat-trick. It is possible that Willie Mullins could land the Champion Hurdle (Sharjah), Champion Chase (Energumene) and Gold Cup (Al Boum Photo/Allaho). But in terms of odds, you are talking several hundred to one. Possible is not the same as probable. Still, if anything, it shows what an achievement it was for de Bromhead last March. From Fred Winter to Nicky Henderson, Legendary trainers had been tipped to do it before, but they ultimately failed. When de Bromhead heads to Cheltenham in March, he will know that if he can’t complete the Holy Trinity again, it’s unlikely that someone else will. History tells us that.