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Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle
Cheltenham Free Bets
Grade 1, Cheltenham 16:10
£120,000 guaranteed,
4yo plus,
2m 3f 200y, Class 1  
Tuesday 14th March 2023


1 Honeysuckle 9/4J
2 Love Envoi 11/1
3 Queens Brook 16/1
9 ran NR: Midnight Ginger Distances: 1½l, 4¼l
Time: 5m 5.13s (slow by 22.13s)

Honeysuckle signed off her career with a fourth Festival victory in today’s Grade One Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle. The nine year previously won this race in 2020 as well as the Unibet Champion Hurdle in 2021 and 2022.

After today’s length and a half success over Love Envoi, she heads off to the paddocks as the winner of 17 of her 19 races.

Speaking to BBC News, winning trainer Henry de Bromhead said: “So many emotions (were going through my mind), it was ridiculous. It’s brilliant and she’s just such an incredible mare, we feel so privileged and lucky to have had anything to do with her. It just meant so much, you dream of a fairy-tale ending and it doesn’t normally happen, but it has here and she’s read the script.

“I’m pretty sure (it’s her final race), it’s not my call but I’m 99% sure. I’d prefer Kenny (Alexander) to say for sure though as he’s the owner. I’m pretty sure that’s it though and to go out like that is incredible.

“It’s just a massive result. We know Jack is always with us and I’m sure he was here on Rachael (Blackmore)’s shoulder. Honeysuckle has been a huge part of our life and Jack just adored her – so she as much did it for him as she did for all of us.

“Rachael and Honey are two divas together and I’m going to keep saying that now as it really annoys Rachael! The two divas together. Rachael is class and she gave her a super ride. She’s an amazing lady and I’m very lucky to have her.”


De Bromhead said earlier: “It’s just incredible. I am just so happy for the mare, and for Rachael, and for all of us, Kenny… You dream of the fairytale ending, but so often it doesn’t happen. This is what she deserves. She is just an unbelievable mare, and I’m just delighted. I think in fairness, we’ve obviously had a terrible year with Jack and everything, and just the support people have given us… Most of it [the cheers as Honeysuckle came into the winner’s enclosure] is for Honey, because she has been so unbelievable, but everyone has shown us so much support. We’re really grateful for that - it’s been an incredibly tough time, and you dream that these kind of things will happen, but more often than not they don’t, so it’s amazing.

“This sport is mental. This the result I think everybody wanted, but you daren’t believe it will happen. She’s incredible, everyone’s incredible - Rachael, Kenny, Peter Molony. We are so lucky to have had her.

“She’s been tipping away - she’s bene in great form all year, but thankfully we picked the right race, when you see the other lad in the Champion Hurdle. There’s a big team behind her and we’re delighted.

“Jumping the last I thought Love Envoi might be gone on us, but - I used to say she never knows when she’s beaten; she rarely knows when she is beaten - she read the script.

“Any day you win a Grade One is an amazing day and any day you win a Grade One at Cheltenham is an amazing day. It’s an incredible day in the sense that she’s going out like she is.

“But there is the mares’ hurdle at Punchestown as well! I presume she’s retiring, that was our plan, but you never know. Get a few drinks into Kenny later - Molony will be going in one ear Walk In The Park, I’ll be going Walk to Punchestown!”

Trainers Quotes

Winning riding Rachael Blackmore told ITV Racing: “We all wish a very special kid (Jack de Bromhead, the winning trainer’s son who was killed in a pony racing accident last year) could be here today, but he’s watching down on us.

“She is unbelievable. The way Henry has produced her every day is phenomenal. As a jockey I’m so grateful… so grateful he didn’t listen to you [Matt Chapman] anyway actually, or I wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking back into the winner’s enclosure! She’s just a phenomenal mare, she’s been incredible for my career, for everyone down in Knockeen who have looked after her over the years, Henry’s head lad David Roche does an unbelievable job with all the horses. She’s just a credit to everyone. Kenny is one of the coolest owners you’ll ever ride for and it’s a brilliant day.”

Blackmore said later: “I knew I’d pick up again after the last but she is just an unbelievable mare. It is incredible what she has done for me, but it is incredible what she has done for all of us. You dream of being involved with something like her. It is just amazing and fair play to Henry he has done such an unbelievable job. What a way to be able to walk back in the winner’s enclosure today. I feel extremely lucky to have teamed up with her throughout my career.

“You come to Cheltenham with Honeysuckle to ride and every jockey dreams of having the likes of her to go to Cheltenham with. She has given us so much and I’m so grateful to her. It will be different without her here next year.”


Winning owner Kenny Alexander said: “She hasn’t been running badly and I’ve kept saying that, she’s just not quite as good as she was last year. I’ve never said that she’s the greatest champion hurdler ever – and the winner of the last race may well turn out to be that – but I think she’s got to be one of the bravest. She’s got guts beyond belief and a tremendous winning attitude. She’s incredibly talented and today was just amazing, she had to tough it out but it was amazing.

“I’m really happy for Henry and his family getting that one on the board, it’s a tremendous day. This is just a horse race and you can’t really compare things that happen outside of it, but I’m happy that they can have a nice bit of enjoyment today and Henry and his wife Heather loved it. This is just a horse race and a bit of fun, it’s not real life really, but that was a great race and a great day.

“She’s retired now and I’ve had an absolute blast owning her. I’m lost for words to be honest, the celebration was out of control. If you can’t lose it a bit after winning a race like that though, you probably shouldn’t own racehorses!

“It just shows you how great the sport is when she’s getting a cheer like that. They don’t love me, that’s for sure! They may love Rachael and even Henry a bit, but they really love that horse.”

Harry Fry, trainer of second-placed Love Envoi, said: "She has run her heart out but has been beaten by a legend of a mare. All being well we will head to Punchestown at the end of April as there is nothing else for her"

Gordon Elliott, trainer of third-placed Queens Brook, said: "Plans are fluid for her but she has run a cracker behind two very good mares. We will talk it over with the owners and take it from there."


Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle
(For The David Nicholson Mares’ Trophy )
£120,000 guaranteed, 4yo plus, 2m 3f 200y, Class 1
9 ran
Going: Soft

1     Honeysuckle 9 11-5 Henry De Bromhead Rachael Blackmore 9/4J
Love Envoi 7 11-5 Harry Fry Jonathan Burke 11/1
Queens Brook 8 11-5 Gordon Elliott Davy Russell 16/1
4     Echoes In Rain 7 11-5 W P Mullins Mr P W Mullins 9/1

5 Brandy Love 7 11-5 W P Mullins Paul Townend 9/1
½ Theatre Glory 6 11-5 Nicky Henderson Daryl Jacob 50/1
Marie's Rock 8 11-5 Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville 9/4J
6 Epatante 9 11-5 Nicky Henderson Aidan Coleman 6/1
9 Shewearsitwell 8 11-5 W P Mullins Danny Mullins 28/1
NR 7 Midnight Ginger 7 11-5 Andrew J Martin NON RUNNER

Mathematician Betting


Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer Owner SP Ran

2022 Marie's Rock 7 11-5 Nicky Henderson Nico de Boinville Middleham Park Racing XLII 18/1 12

2021 Black Tears 7 11-5 1 Mrs Denise Foster Jack Kennedy Mrs Caren Walsh & John Lightfoot 11/1 10

2020 Honeysuckle 6 11-05 Rachael Blackmore Henry De Bromhead Kenneth Alexander 9/4 9

2019 Roksana 7-11-05 Harry Skelton Dan Skelton Sarah Faulks 10/1 14

2018-WINNER-BENIE DES DIEUX 7-11-05 Owner-Susannah Ricci; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-9/2
2ND-Midnight Tour 8-11-05 Owner-James & Jean Potter; Trainer-Alan King; Jockey-Davy Russell; SP-33/1
3RD-Apple’s Jade 6-11-05 Owner-Gigginstown House Stud; Trainer-Gordon Elliott IRE; Jockey-Jack Kennedy; SP-1/2 Fav
9 ran, Time-5m 10.10s; Dist-½, 1

2017-WINNER-APPLE’S JADE 5-11-05 Owner-Gigginstown House Stud; Trainer-Gordon Elliott IRE; Jockey-Bryan Cooper; SP-7/2
2ND-Vroum Vroum Mag 8-11-05 Owner-Susannah Ricci; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Paul Townend; SP-11/4
3RD-Limini 6-11-05 Owner-Susannah Ricci; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-6/4 Fav 17 ran, Time-4m 50.20s; Dist-11⁄2, ns

2016-WINNER-VROUM VROUM MAG 7-11-05 Owner-Susannah Ricci; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-4/6 Fav
2ND-Rock On The Moor 8-11-05 Owner-R Irwin; Trainer-Jessica Harrington IRE; Jockey-Robbie Power; SP-66/1
3RD-Legacy Gold 8-11-05 Owner-Roger Brookhouse; Trainer-Stuart Crawford IRE; Jockey-Andrew Lynch; SP-40/1
19 ran, Time-4m 45.00s; Dist-23⁄4, 1⁄2

2015-WINNER-GLENS MELODY 7-11-05 Owner-Fiona McStay; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Paul Townend; SP-6/1
2ND-Polly Peachum 7-11-05 Owner-Lady Tennant; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-9/1
3RD-Bitofapuzzle 7-11-05 Owner-Chris Giles & Potensis Bloodstock Ltd; Trainer-Harry Fry; Jockey-Noel Fehily; SP-16/1
15 ran, Time-4m 51.10s; Dist-hd, nk 1/2 Fav Annie Power (Fell)

2014-WINNER-QUEVEGA 10-11-05 Owner-Hammer & Trowel Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP- 8/11 Fav
2ND-Glens Melody 6-11-05 Owner-Fiona McStay; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Paul Townend; SP-14/1
3RD-L’Unique 5-11-05 Owner-Denis Barry; Trainer-Alan King; Jockey-Robert Thornton; SP-25/1
16 ran, Time-4m 44.60s; Dist-¾, ¾

2013-WINNER-QUEVEGA 9-11-05 Owner-Hammer & Trowel Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP- 8/11 Fav
2ND-Sirene D'Ainay 7-11-05 Owner-Stephane Milaveau; Trainer-Emmanuel Clayeux FR; Jockey-Jonathan Plouganou; SP-33/1
3RD-Swincombe Flame 7-11-00 Owner-Yeo Racing Partnership; Trainer-Nick Williams; Jockey-Daryl Jacob; SP-40/1
19 ran, Time-4m 55.46s Dist-1½, 2

2012-WINNER-QUEVEGA 8-11-05 Owner-Hammer & Trowel Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP- 4/7 Fav
2ND Kentford Grey Lady 6-11-00 Owner-Ian Bare; Trainer-Emma Lavelle; Jockey-Noel Fehily; SP-14/1
3RD Golden Sunbird 8-11-03 Owner-Jim Mernagh; Trainer-Paul Nolan IRE; Jockey-Robbie Power; SP-66/1
19 ran, Time-4m 51.30s Dist-4, nk

2011-WINNER-QUEVEGA 7-11-05 Owner-Hammer & Trowel Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-5/6 Fav
2ND Sparky May 6-11-05 Owner-Bill Muddyman; Trainer-Pat Rodford; Jockey-Keiran Burke; SP-4/1
3RD Ocean Transit 6-11-00 Owner-Ocean’s Five; Trainer-Richard Price; Jockey-David Bass; SP-50/1
14 ran, Time-4m 48.08s Dist-10, 1

2010-WINNER-QUEVEGA 6-11-05 Owner-Hammer & Trowel Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-6/4 Fav
2ND Carole’s Legacy 6-11-00 Owner-Paul Murphy; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Andrew Tinkler; SP-20/1
3RD Voler La Vedette 6-11-05 Owner-Mrs M Brophy; Trainer-Colm Murphy IRE; Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-9/4
17 ran, Time-4m 45.40s Dist-4½, 1¼

2009-WINNER-QUEVEGA 5-11-03 Owner-Hammer & Trowel Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-2/1 Fav
2ND United 8-11-05 Owner-R B Holt; Trainer-Lucy Wadham; Jockey-Dominic Elsworth; SP-100/30
3RD Aura About You 6-11-00 Owner-Jim Mernagh; Trainer-Paul Nolan IRE; Jockey-Alain Cawley; SP-28/1 21 ran, Time-4m 55.20s Dist-14, sh

2008-WINNER-WHITEOAK 5-11-00 Owner-Brendan Richardson; Trainer-Donald McCain Jnr; Jockey-Jason Maguire; SP-20/1
2ND Refinement 9-11-05 Owner-Michael Tabor; Trainer-Jonjo O’Neill; Jockey-Tony McCoy; 10/1
3RD Chomba Womba 7-11-05 Owner-Richard & Lizzie Kelvin Hughes; Trainer-Nicky Henderson; Jockey-Mick Fitzgerald; SP-100/30 Fav
13 ran, Time-5m 1.40s Dist-sh, 2½