Henry de Bromhead is counting down the days until the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.
The Irish trainer has an especially strong team this year, with several leading contenders in the championship races.
This week his yard received a further boost with the addition of Marsh Novices’ Chase favourite Envoi Allen, following his move from Gordon Elliott’s stable.
Honeysuckle, 5-2 favourite with the sponsors for the Unibet Champion Hurdle on March 16, bids to give his operation a flying start to proceedings.
“We were delighted with her at Leopardstown winning the Irish Champion Hurdle,” de Bromhead said.
“She looks very effective over anything (trip) really. All the judges say her last day was her best performance so far.
“She looks very good over any trip of two to two-and-a-half (miles), thankfully.
“She’s an amazing mare and we feel very lucky to have her.”
The winner of her ten starts over hurdles, Honeysuckle will be joined by stablemates Aspire Tower and Jason The Militant in the two-mile feature.
“They both have good chances,” he said.
“Aspire ran really well at Christmas and we decided to go straight to the Champion Hurdle from there.
“I’m very happy with him. He’s in great form and we’ve put him away for the Champion Hurdle.
“And Jason The Militant ran really well when he won the Red Mills Hurdle very impressively the other day, so we’ll see with him.
“He’s probably a bit more dependent on ground, as long as there’s good ease, he’ll probably want soft ground.”
The yard will also have more than one runner in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup, with A Plus Tard and Minella Indo set to face the starter.
“Minella Indo is in mighty form now and loves Cheltenham – he comes alive over there and his record is brilliant,” he said about Jack Kennedy’s mount.
“He has a real live chance. It was tough to get nabbed like he was last year by Champ but that’s Cheltenham – these things happen and there is always drama.”
Minella Indo has run four times since then, with de Bromhead keen to give the 2019 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Handicap Hurdle winner more experience.
He added: “Our plan with Minella Indo was to be busy with him up to Christmas because we thought he lacked experience.
“He had two great runs at the start, winning a Grade Three and a Grade Two at Wexford and Navan, when he was very impressive.
“Then we went to the Savills with him and it was disappointing he fell.
“It wasn’t the plan to run him again before the Gold Cup but obviously we couldn’t go off the back of a fall so looking at all our options we plumped for the Irish Gold Cup and I thought he ran respectably.
“We were adamant he needed a clear round and we got that. Kemboy got away from us after the mistake at the second last but he still ran well.”
Rachael Blackmore will partner A Plus Tard, the winner of the Novices’ Handicap Chase at the meeting in 2019.
“A Plus Tard was really good in the Savills Chase at Christmas,” he said.
“I am delighted with him. He had a hard enough race there so we decided to put him away for this.
“There aren’t many horses that can win a Grade One over two miles and be in the Gold Cup picture – Kauto Star would be one.
“He stayed very well at Leopardstown and looked like he needed every inch of it and so hopefully it will all go well for him.
“It’s going to be a cracking race and very competitive as you would expect.”