It was 10 years ago that Henry de Bromhead left his young twins and pregnant wife at Christmas to oversee Sizing Europe’s Ladbrokes King George VI Chase bid only for the meeting to be abandoned – but he hopes to finally have his first runner in the great race with Monalee on Boxing Day.
The scheduled 2010 renewal was eventually run on January 15 2011 and took place without Sizing Europe – but it did not do him any harm, because two months later he was successful in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Because of the complications with travelling in a post-coronavirus world, De Bromhead will not be at Kempton this time to witness Monalee in action, but he believes his representative holds solid claims of giving Ireland a first win since Kicking King’s second victory in 2005.
“Sizing Europe was supposed to run in it 10 years ago. We were over there and everything, but sadly it got cancelled (due to snow and frost),” said De Bomehead
“We just felt the travelling over and back home had got to him a bit – so decided not to go back over when it was re-scheduled – and he ended up winning the Champion Chase, so it worked out well.
“That Christmas was horrific, though. I left my two-year-old twins and pregnant wife – and they haven’t let me forget it! With the situation we’re in at the moment, I’ll be staying at home this year anyway.”
Monalee, just touched off in the Savills Chase last Christmas, should arguably be at the peak of his powers – turning 10 in a few weeks – and he outran his 20-1 odds in the Gold Cup in March when beaten less than two lengths into fourth.
De Bromhead said: “We were thinking of going to Kempton with Monalee last year and decided against it, but we felt if we didn’t do it this year we’d never do it. I think the race should suit him and if we’re not there we’ve no chance.
“We said we’d give it a go. He seems in great form, so why not?”
For the third season in a row, Monalee could finish only third on his return to action, but he was up against top-class opposition in Presenting Percy and Kemboy at Thurles.
De Bromhead said: “Thurles was his normal first run of the season, but we’re probably more used to that now.
“Last year we were a bit disappointed after his first run, and that probably had a bit to do with us not travelling last year.
“This year we are used to it. It was fine, he took a nice blow at the third last, so he’ll improve plenty for the run and he seems in mighty form now.
“I’m not sure if there’s any improvement in him, but he’s rated 170. I think when you are up at those ratings it’s more a case of who is in the best form on the day, who does the race suit, who gets the run of the race.
“I felt we didn’t get the run of the race in the Gold Cup. I don’t know if he has to improve – I think he’s as good as any of the ones he’s taking on, and we’ll see on the day.
“Obviously he’s not been before, but we’re hoping the track will suit.”
Given the growing prominence of the Leopardstown Christmas meeting these days, the Irish challengers at Kempton are fewer and fewer, but De Bromhead believes it is still one of the great races – with jockey Rachael Blackmore set to bid to add to her Grade One tally.
“To win it would be amazing – it’s obviously one of the highlights of the year, and it would be fantastic if we could,” he said.
“Being a Grade One, Rachael is allowed to come over and ride, so I’d say it’s highly likely once she passes her Covid test and goes through the protocols they have in place.”