Honeysuckle’s sustained excellence makes Cheltenham Champion Hurdle entry difficult to turn down
There are few superlatives remaining to describe Honeysuckle that haven’t been used already. Trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore have enjoyed plenty of success with the mare, and with not a single blemish on Honeysuckle’s career record to date, there’s every chance that big wins lie on the horizon for the trio of the horse, jockey and trainer.
The latest success came in the form of a first place in the Irish Champion Hurdle, a race that saw Honeysuckle burst clear with three to jump and earn a clear victory over second-place Abacadabras and consign the rest of the chasing pack to disappointment. With the Cheltenham Festival approaching, the Leopardstown win was a clear indication of the form Honeysuckle is in.
There have been question marks over whether de Bromhead was willing to give Honeysuckle the green light in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle next month, or if he would opt for the Mares’ Hurdle instead, but this latest victory gives the trainer little reason to exclude Honeysuckle from the chance to win one of the Cheltenham Festival’s big ones. After the Leopardstown win, the trainer was glowing with pride in the horse and jockey.
“That was deadly, what we hoped she’d do,” de Bromhead said. “She was brilliant, and Rachael was brilliant on her. We’ll see [about her Cheltenham target], but you’d have to feel that we will be leaning that way [the Champion Hurdle].”
The current Cheltenham betting odds place Honeysuckle among the top contenders, and it’s no surprise given that she is now 10 races unbeaten over hurdles. It’s been a remarkable career thus far for the mare, and she is one of de Bromhead’s shining lights – the key to breaking in and dismantling the dominance of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott at the Cheltenham Festival.
Blackmore deserves plenty of credit too, and she will be just as determined as de Bromhead to do everything possible to steer Honeysuckle to victory in the Champion Hurdle. There’s no doubt that she’ll be gunning for entry to the big one, and although she has a couple of Cheltenham wins under her belt already, she’s never won one of the feature races. You can bet that one of her aims will be to record as many big wins at Cheltenham as possible, and the Champion Hurdle is one of the biggest.
With Epatante having been the name on most punters’ lips in the Cheltenham ante post betting tips, the gap has narrowed between Mullins’ horse and the other contenders. Indeed, some bookmakers have Honeysuckle as a joint-favourite for the Champion Hurdle, and it’s no surprise given the form she brings into the Festival this year.
There is plenty of excitement to come for this talented mare, and this year’s Cheltenham Festival could well be the springboard to huge fame and success if she can come out on top in the Champion Hurdle. De Bromhead and Blackmore will have their feet on the ground, and won’t be getting carried away, but it’s hard not to be excited about Honeysuckle’s chances at Cheltenham next month.