Henry De Bromhead is looking forward to the Dublin Racing Festival as he seeks to continue his brilliant run of form at the track.
The Waterford trainer has had very successful 12 months with winners at the Cheltenham, Aintree, Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Leopardstown festivals. When speaking to the assembled media on Tuesday, De Bromhead said he's hoping that run continues.
Notebook, Aspire Tower and A Plus Tard in particular impressed at Leopardstown over Christmas, they will all be back at the track for this year's Dublin Racing Festival.
— Abbeigh (@Abbeighx) December 26, 2019
Notebook was one of the surprise packages in the festive period, and the trainer was among those pleasantly surprised at the horse's rate of improvement for switching to chasing.
"You'd have hoped he'd improve for fences but I couldn't have said he'd have improved to this level. It's great to have him."
Honeysuckle has carried all before her so far, however, the Dublin Racing Festival will be a step into the unknown when she takes on the boys for the first time in the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle.
Henry De Bromhead says his mare is in good order:
“She seems in great form, and all seems good with her. We’re just looking forward to getting her out again really.”
The Waterford trainer isn't concerned about the change in direction for his mare having only won under rules when going right-handed.
“She obviously hasn’t proven herself left-handed. It can be a factor. She hasn’t shown any signs of it (being a problem) – but until they go and do it, who knows?
"She won her point-to-point in Dromahane left-handed – but other than that, she’s only run right-handed.
“We’re also dropping in trip. She won a Listed mares’ hurdle in Thurles over two miles last season, but she has always looked very good over two-and-a-half – and we never really saw much reason to change that.
“Again, it is something new to her. At this level (over two miles), it could be a different ball game, but we’ll learn.”
How Honeysuckle runs at the Dublin Racing Festival will determine her Cheltenham target.
“We’d have to assess everything. At the moment we’re going to the Irish Champion Hurdle and then the Mares’ Hurdle.”
“We’ll have to take a lot of things into account. It depends on her performance on the day and a few other things.
"Benie Des Dieux and Apple’s Jade are two formidable mares, and you’d have to see what way everything was going.
“I’d say if she did win the Irish Champion Hurdle, a decision on which race she’d run in (at) Cheltenham wouldn’t be made until much nearer the time.
"It wouldn’t be just made on her performance – there’ll be a lot of other things to weigh up.”
A Plus Tard
A Plus Tard is already a Cheltenham Festival winner having bolted up on Tuesday last season, giving rider Rachael Blackmore her first Festival success.
The horse won his maiden Grade One at Christmas and impressed De Bromhead.
“He was really good at Christmas,” but the trainer is unsure two-mile chasing is his game.
“We always felt he was more of a middle-distance horse – and up against such an impressive two-miler like Chacun Pour Soi, it was a pleasant surprise the way he did it.”
De Bromhead has previously won the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Sizing Europe (2017) and Special Tiara – but while he feels A Plus Tard is in that league, he views the Ryanair Chase as his more likely Cheltenham objective.
He said: “This horse is only six. He’s achieved quite a lot already – but compared to those guys (Sizing Europe and Special Tiara), he’d have to be up there with them.
“I never really had him in my head as an out-and-out two-miler. We’ll see how he does at the Dublin Racing Festival – but after that, we’re probably aiming at the Ryanair.
“I don’t see that changing, but you never know.”
The shortest-priced of Henry De Bromhead's runners is Aspire Tower — who is odds-on in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle, having dotted up at Punchestown and Leopardstown.
They couldn't catch Aspire Tower in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, as the son of Born To Sea makes it 2 from 2 over hurdles, with Rachael Blackmore doing the steering for Henry De Bromhead at @LeopardstownRC pic.twitter.com/Gxs1QTRDjl
— Horse Racing Ireland (@HRIRacing) December 26, 2019
De Bromhead said: “He seems in great form. We were very lucky to get him — obviously he had some very solid flat form. If you set off to buy a horse off the Flat to go hurdling, he ticks a lot of boxes.
“I try not to get too excited about any horses, because when it doesn’t work out it’s less of a blow, but I’m very excited to have him in the yard.”
The Dublin Racing Festival has only featured one Henry De Bromhead trained winner in its previous two iterations. With the talent the trainer has assembled for this year's renewal, that is unlikely to remain the case.