Henry de Bromhead is struggling to take in quite what he has achieved this season.
The Waterford-based handler dominated the Cheltenham Festival in winning the Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase as well as saddling the first two home in the Gold Cup, before repeating that feat with a one-two in Saturday’s Grand National.
No trainer has matched De Bromhead’s achievement in claiming those three Cheltenham features and the National in the same season – not even the handler’s childhood hero.
“Vincent O’Brien was my idol growing up, so to be mentioned in the same breath as him is pretty incredible to be honest,” he said.
History will remember Minella Times as being the mount of the first female jockey to win the National in Rachael Blackmore, but De Bromhead was keen to credit several others, too.
“A lot of the credit for him even being there has to go to Frank Berry (racing manager) and the McManus (family),” he told talkSPORT2.
“Frank first suggested it at Christmas after the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown. I’d rung to say we’d entered for the Thyestes, but Frank said we should look at the National, so he deserves a lot of credit.
“We decided then that some of the staying chases could be slogs in the winter, so we dropped back to two-five at Leopardstown in February and again he ran a cracker, but it was frustrating to get beaten.
“The two questions marks with the National if you haven’t done it before are the trip and how they take to the fences, but Rachael knew after the second he took to it like a duck to water.”
While the formbook suggested Minella Times had leading claims, Balko Des Flos’ best days were seemingly behind him, but De Bromhead was not surprised to see the 100-1 shot run an excellent race to chase home his stablemate.
“When Balko came upsides with Aidan (Coleman) – he was a class horse who had lost his way, but had been showing up well at home. We’d done a few cross country things with him at home and he was loving that. Rachael thought he was going great at Cheltenham until he unseated her. Aidan was brilliant on him as well,” he said.
“We took Balko to the local cross country course in Ballinamona, which is a brilliant set up, and he just came alive. I wasn’t planning on going that route with him.”
With the Punchestown Festival now on the horizon, De Bromhead and Blackmore will barely get time to take in what they have achieved, but the two have emerged as major forces this season.
“It’s crazy, the last few weeks. If I’d just won the Champion Hurdle, I’d be using the same words (as winning the Gold Cup, Champion and National). I was pretty emotional on Saturday,” said De Bromhead.
“Rachael does the analysis of the races, that’s her thing. I just try to have the horses as right as I can. Obviously I ask her what she thinks before a race and I genuinely go with it, unless I have a strong view on something.
“It’s not just us, the team that works with us at home are brilliant as well – there are so many parts to it all. And we have brilliant clients as well, buying all these good horses. There’s a lot to it.
“Day-to-day Rachael does the analysis, though. It’s taken me a while to let go and before I’d have been more forthright in my views, but as you get more and more confidence in each other, she tells me how she thinks it will work out. Like all top jockeys, they seem to know what the others will be doing.
“She’s breaking all the records, no one deserves it more. She plays down the male-female thing as she’s just a high-class jockey, but she’s the one who is doing it. She’s bringing new people into the sport every day. She deserves it and we’re delighted to be along for the ride.”