Honeysuckle maintained her unbeaten record with an imperious display in winning a third Baroneracing.com Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The reigning champion hurdler has now had 13 races under Rules for Henry de Bromhead and this was her ninth Grade One verdict.
Connections had been weighing up whether to send her over fences this season but once the decision was taken to remain over hurdles, a third win in the Hatton’s Grace became her first objective.
De Bromhead felt he left her a little short heading into the race 12 months ago and while she was victorious, she only beat Ronald Pump by half a length.
It was Matthew Smith’s eight-year-old who proved her toughest opponent once again, but this time around he was eight lengths in arrears.
In truth, the result looked a formality from a long way out, when Rachael Blackmore moved Honeysuckle alongside the early leader Stormy Ireland with Ronald Pump going with her.
Approaching the second last though, Honeysuckle pulled clear and despite jinking slightly to her right at the last, she only had to be pushed out to win as the 2-5 favourite.
Coral now make Honeysuckle odds-on at 4-5 favourite from 6-4 to keep her Champion Hurdle crown.
However, the race was marred by a horrible injury to Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition.
De Bromhead said: “I’m delighted with that, Rachael was brilliant on her and they are just a lethal combination, in fairness to them.
“She was really psyched before the race, she was trying to bite and kick and the only one who was getting away with it was me, actually.
“She probably gave me a fright last year so we might have done a little bit more this year for it, but when you’ve only so many runs – with a lot of mine I’d let them progress, but she was pretty straight.
“She’s an incredible mare and to be associated with her is amazing. The reception she’s got from everyone here is incredible.
“I’m at the stage now where I tell myself ‘she’s going to get beaten this time’. I’m nervous before she runs but we’re so lucky to have her as well. I had myself convinced all week that she was going to get beaten.
“I think it will be the Irish Champion Hurdle next, touch wood she’ll be OK. That route has worked before so we can back off her for a few weeks now, we haven’t really discussed anything after today.
“It’s fantastic to have Kenny (Alexander, owner) and his family over today and it’s amazing.”
He went on: “We have run her on quicker ground, in her maiden hurdle, but it was safe today.
“They were racing from a long way out. Stormy Ireland went a right gallop and we saw at Punchestown last year, you wouldn’t want her getting too far in front but Rachael was aware. She (Stormy Ireland) stopped quite quickly, so then I was looking for the dangers behind.
“I just have to try to remember how brilliant Rachael is and try not to worry as much. How lucky are we to be associated with her.”