|Thursday 18th March 2021|
Honeysuckle Proves To Be The Number One In Hurdles Division
It has been some rise for the talented mare Honeysuckle over the last few years. Her connections were rewarded for their patience with victory in the 2021 Champion Hurdle, the most prestigious hurdles contest in the sport.
Honeysuckle won a strong renewal of the 2m contest, beating last year’s winner Epatante and Kingwell Hurdle victor Goshen. It also proved to be a historic win as jockey Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle.
Trainer Henry De Bromhead added the Champion Hurdle to the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase on the list of major races he has won at the Cheltenham Festival. He will be hoping he can also claim the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year as A Plus Tard is the second favourite at 5.8 in the betting on Cheltenham market for the Blue Riband event of the meeting.
De Bromhead was confident that Honeysuckle was good enough to take on the leading stars in the 2m hurdles division and his horse proved him right. She went into the race unbeaten in 10 starts over hurdles, six of which coming at the highest level.
In her last run before Cheltenham, Honeysuckle defended her crown in the Irish Champion Hurdle. That was probably enough for her connections to decide that the Champion Hurdle had to be her target this year.
After her victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2020, many of her fans wanted to see her take on the best of the British and Irish runners in the Champion Hurdle. Her owners opted for the Mares’ Hurdle instead, a race which saw her shine at the Festival for the first time.
Honeysuckle became only the sixth mare in the history of the Champion Hurdle to win the Championship contest. The race was first contested in 1927 and it has been dominated by male runners since then.
Champion Hurdle Defence The Number One Target Next Season
The Champion Hurdle is sure to be the main focus again next season for De Bromhead’s runner. Only two horses in the last 20 years have been able to defend their crown the following year in this race. Hardy Eustace managed that feat in 2005, while more recently, Buveur D’Air did so in 2018.
Honeysuckle could run one more time again this season. The Punchestown Festival takes place next month and if the Champion Hurdle has not taken too much out of her, the Punchestown Champion Hurdle would be an obvious race to run in.
The seven-year-old will be given some rest over the summer. A similar path can be expected next season with the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle the race we are most likely to see her make her reappearance in.
Although she has a long way to go to match Hurricane Fly’s five straight Irish Champion Hurdle wins, a hat-trick of successes in the race would be some achievement. She then is likely to face a different looking field for the Champion Hurdle with the addition of this season’s most talented novice hurdlers.
Honeysuckle has reached the top of her division in the sport. The challenge now is to stay there and prove her dominance over a sustained period of time. If she manages that, she will cement her legacy as one of the best mares the sport has ever seen.