Henry de Bromhead facing into emotional day-three action at Leopardstown

Bob Olinger lines up for Grade One Christmas Hurdle named in memory of 13-year-old Jack de Bromhead

Few people, if any, have had to confront the jumble of emotions Henry de Bromhead looks set to face on Wednesday.

From a purely racing point of view, the Co Waterford trainer is throwing some of his greatest names at day three of Leopardstown’s Christmas festival.

They are topped by the brilliant Cheltenham Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard in the featured €175,000 Savills Chase.

The De Bromhead team also includes the 2021 Aintree National hero Minella Times lining up over hurdles for the first time in almost four years.


The fascinating enigma that is Bob Olinger also takes his chance in Wednesday’s other Grade One. However, it is the title of that race which makes Wednesday’s festive action so poignant.

The Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle — renamed by Bob Olinger’s owner and big-race sponsor Brian Acheson — is run in memory of the trainer’s 13-year-old son killed in a pony-race fall last September. That heart-breaking loss for the De Bromhead family touched so many that the depth of emotional support behind Bob Olinger is sure to be immense.

It’s a context that brings perspective to debate about any Bob Olinger conundrum although neither is it likely to stop examination of the singular puzzle this horse presents.

Is Bob back?

Even amid De Bromhead’s unique big-race domination in 2021, Bob Olinger stood out as an emerging talent with the racing world seemingly at his feet.

Last season’s novice chase campaign ultimately delivered another Cheltenham festival victory but only due to Galopin Des Champs’s dramatic final fence exit. A final start at Punchestown resulted in him being pulled up with all sorts of consequential speculation about Bob Olinger’s state of both mind and body.

The decision to revert to hurdles this season looked reasonable in the circumstances and for much of his Lismullen reappearance at Navan, the old silky-smooth “Bob” looked back.

That he ultimately failed to repel the 28-1 outsider Home By The Lee was disappointing and leaves the horse with plenty to prove now on his first hurdles start at three miles.

The stayers’ champion Flooring Porter was behind Bob Olinger at Navan but will be a different proposition at this trip. Winner of the race in 2020, he put in a huge effort last year when only Klassical Dream’s flying start looked to prevent a follow-up.

Home By The Lee himself put in a remarkable performance in that Lismullen and could still be underestimated.

The reality is, however, that all eyes will once again be on Bob Olinger.

The same probably applies to A Plus Tard (APT) in the big race.

Following a disastrous return to action at Haydock last month, one of the most spectacular Gold Cup winners of the modern era is on a retrieval mission in the Savills.

At Haydock, APT looked nothing like the athlete that powered up the Cheltenham hill and quickly had to be pulled up by Rachael Blackmore.

It has since been put down to a “travel-related illness” that reportedly bottomed the horse.

The 2020 Savills was when APT announced himself as a potential Gold Cup star and last year he was narrowly defeated by Galvin at a time when the stable wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

At his 180-rated best, however, and going left-handed on decent ground, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned star sets the standard among staying chasers. If he’s back to that sort of form any kind of odds against will look a steal on Wednesday.

Galvin is joined by his Irish Gold Cup-winning stable companion Conflated while Kemboy looks the best of a Willie Mullins trio.

Minella Times is one of 28 lining up for the Pertemps Qualifier although Gordon Elliott holds a strong hand with 10 runners.

De Bromhead duo

Despite a 17lb hike for winning at Navan, Maxxum at the bottom of the handicap still looks the one to be on.

The De Bromhead team has a pair of runners in Limerick’s feature, the €45,000 Tim Duggan Handicap Chase, including last year’s winner Spyglass Hill.

Very testing ground conditions are likely to suit Street Value at the other end of the weights and Denis O’Regan takes the mount.

Willie Mullins is notably busy at Limerick with 10 declarations including Allegorie de Vassy in the Grade Two mares chase.

He also resumes ties with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary whose colours will be on Shanbally Kid in the opener.

O’Leary famously split with Mullins in 2016 over a dispute about training fees but the pair reunited earlier this year. Shanbally Kid was a £190,000 (€215,000) purchase after landing a Clonmel bumper in April.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column