Henry de Bromhead with Honeysuckle ahead of her bid for history at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on Sunday. Photo: Inpho.
The superstar mare of Knockeen and twice Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle will bid to set the second-day of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown alight as she goes in search of her fourth straight Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle as she says a final farewell to the Foxrock track tomorrow.
After suffering the first defeat of her brilliant career in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse last December, Henry de Bromhead’s stable star will be hoping to get back to winning ways in the day-two feature where she will face stiff opposition in the Willie Mullins’ trained duo, State Man and Vauban.
In her three previous wins in the Grade One race, the Kenny Alexander nine-year-old has gone off odds on favourite and has duly obliged on each other, but she faces redemption day ahead of possible targets at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
The one thing that punters do know for certain that the horse that put the career of her rider Rachael Blackmore firmly on the map will be sure to go down fighting in her bid to join Hurricane Fly and Istabraq in landing the Irish Champion on four occasions.
It’s hard to believe that the talented mare, who has won three times at the Cheltenham Festival, is second favourite for the race behind the new upcoming star State Man, but this will be his hardest test to date as he tries to deal with both Honeysuckle and the large Leopardstown crowd that will be roaring her home.
For her jockey Rachael Blackmore, she is full of confidence that her horse can return to winning ways and put herself firmly on course for a clash with Constitution Hill come Champion Hurdle day on March 14 at Prestbury Park.
“IN GREAT FORM”
“It was obviously very disappointing that she got beaten, but she put up a very good performance in defeat and we move on to the Irish Champion Hurdle,” said Blackmore ahead of Sunday’s clash with State Man and the unexposed five-year-old Vauban.
“I think it was a combination of very strong opposition on that soft ground over that trip (two and a half miles). That combination was ultimately what resulted in her getting beaten. Teahupoo is a very good horse, as is Klassical Dream, and I really do feel that she still ran an extremely good race.
“She couldn’t be any better at home and Henry is delighted with her. I obviously love riding her, I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully she puts up a good performance. She’s been incredible, she’s unbeaten in Leopardstown and I really wouldn’t be underestimating her in any shape or form – she’s the one they all have to come out and beat.
“I’m on her back and I have full confidence in her. If I had lost the faith in Honeysuckle, it would be a very poor reflection of what we’ve achieved. She’s been incredible for my career. Every jockey has a dream of being able to ride something like Honeysuckle and I’m so lucky that I’ve had the association with her.
“We got a fantastic reception in Leopardstown last year – it was one of my favourite moments in racing coming back into the winner’s enclosure. It would be incredible for her to win a fourth Irish Champion Hurdle. As far when that association is going to end, we know it’s not going to go past this season, but I don’t look too far ahead.”
We know for certain that this will be her final appearance at her beloved Leopardstown, and regardless of the result it will be a moment that will be filled with a tinge of sadness, but many will be hoping that they will be matched with tears of joy. It would be one of those special moments in racing should the Queen of Knockeen come home with her head in front once again. It should be a cracker.
Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle return to a wonderful reception after their win at the 2022 Dublin Racing Festival. Photo: Inpho.