The sensational winning sequence is over but Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore do not believe it is the end of Honeysuckle as she bids for a fourth Irish Champion Hurdle.
Opinions were divided about Honeysuckle’s Hatton’s Grace defeat at Fairyhouse in December.
Naturally enough after winning 16 in a row and being sent off at 4-11, there was initial shock that she didn’t win. But after Teahupoo galloped relentlessly to a wide-margin win in the Galmoy, there was a measure of re-evaluation.
Honeysuckle was given a Racing Post Rating of 158 for the Hatton’s Grace, which was 6lb above her winning figure in the 2020 running. Maybe it wasn’t a poor effort at all and De Bromhead agrees.
The trainer said: “It was a very good first run of the season at Fairyhouse and we’ve been really happy with her since. She seems in great form and all things are good.
“State Man and Vauban look very good and it’ll be interesting to see how they fare against her. Every year she has a fresh challenge. Last year Appreciate It was the latest one. She’s had massive challenges throughout her career, like when she beat Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle and when she beat a previous Champion Hurdle winner [Epatante] at Cheltenham. This is another one, but the other horses have her to beat.”
Blackmore remains a believer too. She has not lost any faith in the queen of Irish racing and cannot wait to get back on board.
She said: “Honeysuckle seems to be as good as ever. Henry is very happy with her and her groom Colman Comerford says she’s in great form.
“Of course it was disappointing that she was beaten in the Hatton’s Grace on her return this season, but she still ran a very good race.”
Writing in her Betfair blog, she added: “It’s not going to be easy, but Irish Champion Hurdles shouldn’t be easy. State Man is a high-class horse and Vauban ran a big race for a four-year-old in the Matheson Hurdle on his seasonal debut. But Honeysuckle goes there in really good form. It should be a great race.”
Townend expecting more from State Man
State Man has never been beaten when he has completed since joining Willie Mullins and Paul Townend is confident of another big run.
Townend has tried on umpteen occasions to take down Honeysuckle and finished ahead of her in the Hatton’s Grace on Klassical Dream, only for Teahupoo to trump him on the line.
Townend said: “State Man has to take on Honeysuckle, which will be interesting. He has beaten most of the others and I’d be very hopeful. Honeysuckle was beaten at Fairyhouse but I wouldn’t write her off on that.
“State Man seems to be improving the whole time. He built on his Morgiana win to win at Leopardstown over Christmas and I think he can win again. I like him a lot and I’m really looking forward to riding him again.”
What they say
Gordon Elliott, trainer of Pied Piper and Zanahiyr
Pied Piper was bitterly disappointing in the Matheson Hurdle at Christmas. It was too bad to be true and we know he’s a lot better than that. He’s very talented but needs to bounce back. We hope he can. Zanahiyr hasn’t caught fire this season, so we’re bringing him back to two miles to see if that sparks a revival. He was second in this race last year.
Willie Mullins, trainer of State Man and Vauban
We’re very happy with our two and how they have taken their training and preparation. If they both improve a little from what they did at Christmas, it will be interesting to see how they go. And, we do feel they’re both improving.
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