LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) – Henry de Bromhead has the Cheltenham Gold Cup trophy sitting in pride of place in his kitchen but will not tempt fate and imagine the Grand National prize will be beside it on Sunday.
The 48-year-old Irishman has three runners in Saturday’s race at Aintree including Minella Times, the ride of Rachael Blackmore, who helped him rip up the record books at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.
He told AFP he was still “pinching himself” after becoming the first trainer to win the “Holy Trinity” at the event in southwest England.
Honeysuckle triumphed in the Champion Hurdle, with Blackmore becoming the first female jockey to win the race. Put The Kettle On took the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Minella Indo led home a De Bromhead 1-2 in the blue riband Gold Cup.
“Coming to the last I said to myself ‘I am not going to win the Gold Cup — Al Boum Photo will catch my two’,” he said.
“But he did not and then I went numb and it was utter disbelief.”
De Bromhead marked his success in low-key fashion, travelling back to Ireland alone on the ferry to be reunited with wife Heather and their three children, 12-year-old twins Jack and Mia and Georgia, 10.
That suits the man who defines himself as “unexciting” despite his success in the sport.
“I think like many of us I got rid of my exciting side when I was young,” he laughs.
De Bromhead also has some remarkable colour in his family background — British army officer Gonville Bromhead was awarded the nation’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, for his role in the defence of Rorke’s Drift in 1879.
British soldiers were outnumbered by Zulu warriors in the battle in South Africa and the lieutenant’s role was immortalised by Michael Caine in the epic film “Zulu”.
As well as the high points in his career as a trainer, De Bromhead has also gone through tough times.
In 2008 his hot favourite for the Champion Hurdle, Sizing Europe, flopped and in 2017 he watched as Sizing John, a horse who had been removed from his charge by the owners, won the Gold Cup.
“I am a natural pessimist,” he said. “There are a lot of things that go wrong in racing, especially in National Hunt (jumps).
“One can become too high or get too low so I opt for mid-range and try and take the ups and downs equably.
“Even at Cheltenham this year I had plenty of fallers but that is made easier when you are also having a fair share of winners.”
Racing was always De Bromhead’s calling. He describes himself as a “racing anorak”, saying he collected autographs of racing greats such as Lester Piggott and the late Pat Eddery.
His love of the sport came from watching his father Harry enjoy some success as a trainer, including a winner at Cheltenham, but his parents wanted a secure future for their son.
“Mum and Dad knew how tough the training game was and wanted me to gain other qualifications,” he said.
“I tried accountancy but after six months I knew it was not for me and went back to racing.”
He tasted instant success when his first runner, Fidalus, won at Tramore in 2000 and has no regrets about the path he took.
“It is an absolutely amazing way of life and you meet really interesting people,” he said. “There were many years when it was tough but you work through it.
“You get a break then you get knocked back, then a break and then knocked back again. By no means are we getting there all the time but I do feel really lucky to be a trainer.”
Come Saturday evening, if he is sitting on the ferry beside the Grand National trophy he may find a fellow anorak asks him for his autograph.
However, De Bromhead does not waver from the script ahead of the world-famous steeplechase.
“I would not even think about it,” he said. “It has to happen first.”