Trainer Henry de Bromhead claimed his second championship contest of The Festival™ supporting WellChild with a mare inside 24 hours, having saddled Honeysuckle to success in yesterday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle.
Racing prominently throughout, she was headed approaching the second last but rallied gamely in the last 50 yards to take the honours.
The daughter of Stowaway won the Grade One Arkle Novices’ Chase at The Festival™ in 2020 and becomes the 13th horse to win both races. She is now unbeaten in four starts at Cheltenham, having also taken the Grade Two Shloer Chase in November of 2020 and the Grade 2 Arkle Trial at the November Meeting in 2019.
Henry de Bromhead said: “She’s an incredible mare. I’m delighted for the Dermodys and the syndicate. Mary Dermody is the matriarch of it and it’s just brilliant. Stuff you dream about! She’s so tough and Aidan was just brilliant on her. He really asked at the last three fences, and it was probably the winning of the race.
“A couple of weeks ago she was a bit quiet and we freshened her up as much as we could, and she seemed much better, but she arrived here and was back to what we expected her to be doing; just crazy. She’s mad. I have to say, everyone at home but especially Andrea, who looks after her and puts up with her antics every day – it will be very special for her.
“How she improves for being here – did we feel it, I don’t know, but mid-February I was probably leaning towards the mares’ chase, and then I spoke to the owners and we looked at the stats of the Arkle winners, which seemed ridiculous, and it’s her trip and she loves the Old Course, so we thought we’d give it a lash and see.
“It’s stuff you dream about doing – it’s crazy. We get such great support from our clients and have a great team at home; everyone has worked really hard, and it’s amazing to get rewarded like we are.
“She’s just a bit crackers the whole time, to be honest – she’s just quite wild, but a real character. Andrea does a really good job with her. She wouldn’t be the easiest ride and you’d want to have your wits about you. Daniel Holden would ride her a lot at home. She’s nuts, but in a great way.
“I felt we were always up against it with Chacun Pour Soir. He looked so good at Leopardstown – he is so good – but you have to take your chances. Her record on the Old Course is incredible. But did I think she would come here and win? Probably not, and we had to make up 15 lengths. Also Aidan – he gets such a tune out of her and that could be the most important thing. I’d say Cheltenham could just as easily be Aidan.”
Speaking at the post-race press conference, jockey Aidan Coleman said: “Her tenacity and attitude is something to behold. It is a privilege to be associated with her. I’ve ridden her in four races and when she came over in November I rode her out a couple of times. I’ve sat on her a little bit since she has been over this year.
“She doesn’t give you anything easy but when you are on her side you couldn’t have a more willing partner. I think if you put someone else on her, her guts would still be there and I think she would win without me but I’m going to stay on her.
“She ran really well at Leopardstown over Christmas but her form here is better simple as. As I said in November if you going to have form around the track this is where you want it if you know what I mean. I don’t care if she was a selling plater around any other track. If she can come up here and run in the Shloer and Champion Chase that will do me!
“I jumped off and wanted to get a good start. I wasn’t sure where she would be able to sit as it was her next biggest test and I wasn’t sure if she would be quick enough to be bang there. She was very good over the first three or four and when I jumped the fourth I was upsides Gavin (Sheehan, on Rouge Vif) I was pretty confident I would stay there until turning in then what will be will be after that.
“The attitude and ability she has is fantastic. He (Chacun Pour Soi) did look pretty solid coming into and there wasn’t many questions marks about him, only the track and that was only thing we had massively in our case and he beat her well at Leopardstown and he is a fantastic horse but I’m not sure what run round he had but we had an ultimately perfect run round and we love the track and hill. It was just our day today.
“I got beat a head in it by one of Henry’s a couple of years ago and it really annoyed me as I thought I should have won that day. I was a bit slow through the middle part of the race and Special Tiara got away from me. Up until I won a Grade One on Paisley Park a few years ago it was the only Grade One I was close to winning. It always bugged me a bit as I thought I should have won it.
“These championship races are the ones you grow up watching. If you are lucky to ride in them it’s fantastic and if you win one it’s even better.”
Coleman told ITV Racing: “I don’t think anyone has [ever ridden a tougher mare than this] to be fair. I don’t think me saying I haven’t ridden a tougher mare than this would do her justice. She gets some fantastic jumps, like three out she was all wrong and she just throws herself at it. She made ground doing it, it wasn’t ideal, but it was just a testament to her ability.
“She heard them coming and had two horses each side of her in the run in and she wasn’t getting past. I beat Chacun Pour Soi off, then Harry came and she went again. If I could bottle what she has I wouldn’t have to ride again, I could sell it and be a rich man!”
Asked about the buzz of riding in a Champion Chase at that kind of pace, he added: “I suppose it works both ways. When you’re riding a mare like this, it’s an extremely good buzz, if you’re riding something of lesser quality, it’s the worst feeling in the world!
“This year has worked out great for me. I’ve got on some great horses and I’m really enjoying riding in these races as I’m riding the right animals. I don’t want to take any plaudits for this. This mare is something else. Whether she’s the best or not, it doesn’t matter, if you’ve got a heart as much as she has, I don’t have to do a lot.
“She’d win that race loose if you put my weight of lead on her back as she just wants it that much. It was very special and pulling up I was nearly emotional because we all love these horses and we do it day in, day out for them.
“When you ride something that loves it and wants to win as much as this, it’s just a pleasure, it brings you back to your roots and why you wanted to get into the game, and that’s for the love of the animal. You can’t not watch this race and the jumps she put in and her attitude from the back of the last [and not] really appreciate what they do for us.”
Trainer Dan Skelton said of runner-up Nube Negra: “It’s gutting to be placed again, but nothing went wrong, apart from standing on his heel at the back of the last, which cost us a tiny bit. He’s travelled round super, jumped brilliantly and came up the hill, which was never in doubt.”
Harry Skelton, rider of Nube Negra, commented: “He ran an unbelievable race. The winner was great, and she’s a top-class mare, but we are very proud of our horse. He jumped really well, travelled all of the way, and finished his race off. He just lost his footing after the last, but that didn’t cost us anything really. He’s still young and so hopefully he’s got a lot in front of him. He’s proved he’s top-class, if anyone had any doubts.”
Willie Mullins, trainer of third-placed 8-13 favourite Chacun Pour Soi, said: “I’m a little disappointed, I just thought he ran a little bit flat. It’s as simple as that.”
Jockey Paul Townend added: “It’s disappointing. We had every chance jumping the second last and we just weren’t good enough on the run in.”
Paul Nicholls trainer of fourth-placed Greaneteen said: “I thought Greaneteen ran really nicely, and he’ll definitely go again. We were thinking of coming here and then going to Sandown, or maybe going up to two and a half as I’ve always thought he’ll stay a bit further. He’ll be better next year with another summer on him, and to compete at that level as well as that puts him right in the mix.”
Nicholls also trains 2020 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Politologue, who was withdrawn shortly before this year’s contest.
The trainer explained: “There was just a little trickle of blood out of his right nostril when we came to saddle him. Nine times out of 10 it would be nothing, and he could well have just banged himself somewhere as he gets a little wound up before racing.
“He’s probably just broken a little blood vessel higher in his nose, but if I’d have run him and something had happened I’d never have forgiven myself, so I called the vet over and we took him out. He’s had a little problem bleeding before and you can’t take a chance. It’s a shame as it turned out an open race, but you have to do the right thing.
“He’ll probably be cantering again tomorrow, and we’ll go to Sandown now, and if John (owner Hales) wants to. He was trained for today and hasn’t had a run, so he could go again.
“I spoke to his daughter Lisa, and she says John is mortified, but he said thanks for doing the right thing.”
- 1st – Put The Kettle On – Henry de Bromhead IRE 7-11-03 Aidan Coleman 17-2
- 2nd – Nube Negra – Dan Skelton 7-11-10 Harry Skelton 11-1
- 3rd – Chacun Pour Soi – Willie Mullins IRE 9-11-10 Paul Townend 8-13 Fav
- R4: Politologue was withdrawn. Price at time of withdrawal 10/1. Rule 4 applies to bets struck prior to withdrawal but not to SP bets – deduction 5p in the Pound. New market formed
- 9 ran
- Distances: ½, 1
- Time: 3m 57.09s
- Winning Owner: One For Luck Racing Syndicate
- Breeder: Butlersgrove Stud
- Breeding: b m Stowaway – Name For Fame (USA) (Quest For Fame)
- Henry de Bromhead – 12th winner at The Festival™ supporting WellChild
- Aidan Coleman – 4th winner at The Festival™ supporting WellChild