Unbeaten mare Honeysuckle on-course for the Champion Hurdle

Henry De Bromhead has had many top chasers pass through his yard down the years, Sizing Europe and Special Tiara just to name a couple. While the County Waterford native has handled many a top hurdler too, Honeysuckle would have to be considered the best he’d ever trained over the smaller obstacles.

Honeysuckle carried an unbeaten record into the Dublin Racing Festival earlier this month, winning all nine of her starts under rules. Rachael Blackmore’s mount was attempting to become the first horse since the legendary Hurricane Fly to successfully defend the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Last year, De Bromhead and owner, Kenneth Alexander used the Irish Champion Hurdle as a stepping stone to the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Many expected the team to be plotting a similar route in 2021. However, prior to her outing at Leopardstown, Desibets.com reported that the team were leaning towards a run in the Champion Hurdle.

“I think her jumping has come on in leaps and bounds this year,” Peter Molony said. “She’s getting slicker and faster.

“She jumped a bit big and novicey when winning the Irish Champion last year and we didn’t just trust her jumping would stand up at championship pace over two miles at Cheltenham, which is why we stuck to the plan.”

“We are definitely edging towards the Champion Hurdle, but let’s see what happens on Saturday first.”

What unfolded that Saturday was nothing less than massacre. Blackmore allowed Petit Mouchoir to make the early running, before hitting taking over at the third-last. Rounding the final bend, Honeysuckle had established a clear lead, and Blackmore could even afford to steady her mount into the final flight and still win by ten lengths.

That was a real statement of intent from Henry De Bromhead’s star – a performance of the season contender for sure. Bookmakers reacted by cutting Honeysuckle into favouritism for the 2021 Champion Hurdle, ahead of defending champion Epatante.

In the Champion Hurdle, mares carry seven-pounds less than the colts and geldings. Honeysuckle and Epatante are two of the highest-rated horses in the list of Champion Hurdle entries, so that weight-for-age allowance gives them a massive advantage.

After Epatante suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Silver Streak when last seen in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, Honeysuckle has suddenly become the one they all have to beat in the first Championship race at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.

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