W HEN one recalls the highs of the 2020/21 National Hunt campaign two figures immediately spring to mind as their exploits in the spring ensured that Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead made the season their own. The dynamic duo had a sensational 2021.

It all began at Cheltenham in March when the pair combined for that epic Champion Hurdle success with Honeysuckle. After carrying all before her for the previous two years, Honeysuckle had just one last milestone to achieve and that was a success in hurdling’s showpiece event at Cheltenham.

It is the preserve of outstanding equine athletes to make the remarkable seem quite routine and that is exactly what Honeysuckle achieved in the Champion Hurdle as she enjoyed a leisurely six-and-a-half-length triumph. She would go on to win again at Punchestown with her position as one of the all-time great mares already secure and further enhanced by her recent comeback at Fairyhouse.

In an incredible week for the trainer at Cheltenham, de Bromhead would then go on to add the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Gold Cup to his haul. In the Champion Chase the previous year’s Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On came out best in a bunch finish as the odds-on Chacun Pour Soi fluffed his lines.

Two days later the de Bromhead yard ran riot in the Gold Cup as Minella Indo, partnered by Jack Kennedy, outpointed stablemate A Plus Tard with their hat-trick seeking compatriot Al Boum Photo back in third.


The week that was in it made it seem a champion trainer award for de Bromhead was inevitable but he was edged out on countback by Willie Mullins after the pair ended the meeting on six winners apiece.

Meanwhile, Rachael Blackmore was crowned the meeting’s leading rider with six victories to her name, a tally which left her just one short of the all-time record for the number of winners by a rider at the Cheltenham Festival.

Those four days alone would have been enough to have classed the season as a golden one for both trainer and jockey but Irish racing’s most dynamic partnership wasn’t done with as the focus shifted to Aintree the following month.

Sometimes things are just written in the stars and that was the case come Grand National time as Minella Times struck gold for de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore. A winner of a Listowel handicap chase before posting runner-up efforts in the Paddy Power and the Leopardstown Chase, the J.P. McManus-owned eight-year-old defeated his stablemate Balko Des Flos.

The result was an incredible one and marked the climax of a spectacular month for the trainer and a jockey whose profile is such that she now transcends the boundaries of racing which is testament to her superstar status.

Otherwise the Grand National represented a neat illustration of what went on all spring as the Irish dominance from Cheltenham was transferred to Merseyside where 10 of the first 11 home at Aintree hailed from this side of the Irish Sea.

Mullins provides another masterful display

UNSURPRISINGLY it was another season of outstanding excellence for the master trainer Willie Mullins whose dominance at home and across the Irish Sea was evident in the spring.

In terms of Cheltenham, Mullins edged out Henry de Bromhead for the leading trainer award with another impressive six-winner haul to go with multiple placed efforts throughout the week. Appreciate It and Allaho were particularly brilliant in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Ryanair Chase respectively, while the week also served notice of the depth of young talent at the trainer’s disposal.


Yet Mullins could be forgiven for looking back at parts of Cheltenham with a sense of regret. His brilliant novice chaser Energumene was ruled out of the meeting just a few days beforehand, Chacun Pour Soi failed to deliver the sort of devastating effort in the Queen Mother that he did on his other outings last season, while Al Boum Photo’s quest for racing immortality and a third Gold Cup triumph ended with a third-place effort.

Just over a month later the season ending spectacular that is the Punchestown Festival witnessed an all-out assault by Mullins whose level of dominance was nothing short of incredible.

Over the five days Mullins made the meeting his own and in truth, nobody else got a look in at any stage. A 19-winner haul for the week was quite staggering and further illustrated the daunting array of firepower at his disposal for the next few seasons.

The champion trainer’s dominance continued into the new campaign as he brought up a famous double at Galway with Royal Rendezvous winning the Plate a day before Patrick Mullins notched up yet another Galway Hurdle triumph aboard a back-to-form Saldier. He has also sent out more Grade 1 winners with Allaho leading home a Mullins brigade of runners in the John Durkan Chase and Statuaire springing a minor surprise in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.