Tag Archive for: Flame Bearer

Honeysuckle primed to make it sweet sixteen at Punchestown

Honeysuckle is primed to extend her undefeated record as she bids for a second Paddy Power Champion Hurdle title at Punchestown on Friday.

The Henry de Bromhead-trained mare silenced any doubters at the Cheltenham Festival when retaining her Champion Hurdle title and preserving her flawless record to a ratio that now balances at 15 runs and 15 victories.

A two-and-a-quarter-length winner of this race last season, with connections of Constitution Hill opting to keep their powder dry the eight-year-old will face just five rivals this time around as she looks to add a 16th triumph to her CV.

De Bromhead said: “Honeysuckle is in mighty form since Cheltenham. She seems really well. She had to battle to win at Punchestown race last year but they went some pace in it and I think she did what she had to do and was good on the day.

“I think it’s fair comment to say she only does what she needs to in order to win her races and that probably has helped her keep reproducing so consistently throughout her career.

Honeysuckle after her Champion Hurdle defence at Cheltenham
Honeysuckle after her Champion Hurdle defence at Cheltenham (David Davies/PA)

“It’s a privilege for all of us to be associated with her. She has been incredible since being bought by Peter Molony and Kenny Alexander at Punchestown and we can’t wait to go again.”

British interests are represented by the David Pipe-trained Adagio after his eighth-placed Champion Hurdle performance.

Prior to that the five-year-old has either won or finished second in a string of big races after a juvenile season that culminated in a top-flight victory in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle.

“I think he’ll like conditions, he’s travelled over well, there’s only six runners and quite a lot of prize money on offer so we’ll try and pick up as much as we can,” said Pipe.

“We were going to go to Aintree but he wasn’t quite right so we had to miss that, he hopefully comes here a fresh horse, we’ll put a pair of sheepskin cheekpieces on him as well.

David Pipe's Adagio
David Pipe’s Adagio (David Davies/PA)

“I think he’ll like the track, he’s travelled over well and seems in good form.

“There is still the one runner that is probably unbeatable (Honeysuckle), but we’ll be giving the other four our best shot.”

The JP McManus green and gold silks will be worn by two contenders, with Willie Mullins’ Saint Roi and Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso both in action.

The former finished fourth behind Honeysuckle at Cheltenham and in the Irish Champion Hurdle, whereas Darasso was a winner last time out at a lower grade when taking the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

“Darasso is a class horse,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to McManus.

Darasso winning the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Hurdle at Fairyhouse
Darasso winning the Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Hurdle at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

“He won well at Fairyhouse and is probably up against it against the mare (Honeysuckle) but he goes there in good form, in winning form, and he won’t mind the ground so we’re hoping for a good run.

“He’s very consistent and is a great horse to have. He’ll rarely let you down.

“Saint Roi ran very well in the Champion Hurdle. He was no match for the mare but if he turns up in the same form and we get place money, we’ll be happy.”

Gordon Elliott’s Teahupoo, a six-time winner who disappointed when finishing last in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, and Mullins’ Echoes In Rain, last seen coming home fifth in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at the same meeting, also take their chance.

On the same card is the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle, another six-runner affair and a race with three entrants from the Mullins yard.

State Man winning the County Hurdle
State Man winning the County Hurdle (Mike Egerton/PA)

The Cheveley Park-owned Deploy The Getaway and former Grade One bumper winner Kilcruit are both engaged, as is County Hurdle hero State Man.

Patrick Mullins, son of trainer Willie, said of the latter: “I’d be very disappointed if he’s not a Grade One winner in the future.

“He showed plenty of speed to win the County Hurdle and it’s just about splitting up the novice hurdlers. There is a fantastic crop there going forward for next year.”

Noel Meade and Elliott have a runner apiece in Highland Charge and Three Stripe Life respectively, with the field then completed by Pat Doyle’s Flame Bearer.

The seven-year-old was won his past three starts, taking a Fairyhouse maiden before landing the BetVictor Novice Hurdle at Naas and then the Tom Quinlan Electrical Novice Hurdle – both Grade Two events.

Flame Bearer winning the Tom Quinlan Electrical Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse
Flame Bearer (red silks) winning the Tom Quinlan Electrical Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

“He has progressed nicely right through the season, from his hurdling debut in Cork last December, when he pulled too hard and blew up because we’d no gallop done with him due to the ground being so quick,” said Doyle.

“He has learned to settle far better now and was a bit unlucky in Naas before winning at Fairyhouse and then the two Grade Twos at Naas and Fairyhouse again.

“He showed a good attitude the last day after getting stuck in a pocket to get up and I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s in great order.

“The point-to-points are our bread and butter but it’s powerful to have a horse with good chance in a Grade One at the Punchestown Festival, especially with (son) Jack riding and we’re looking forward to it.”

Flame Bearer digs deep to land Fairyhouse prize

Flame Bearer had to overcome adversity to justify his prohibitive odds in the Tom Quinlan Electrical Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Trained by Pat Doyle and ridden by his son Jack, the seven-year-old was the 5-4 favourite to complete his hat-trick in the Grade Two contest following wins at Fairyhouse and Naas earlier in the year.

Carrying a 6lb penalty for his first Grade Two win, Flame Bearer made a mistake at the final flight in the back straight, but was still travelling well on the heels of the leaders rounding the home turn.

His supporters will have been sweating after Doyle went for a run up the inside of Ha D’Or and Paul Townend and found the door slammed firmly shut in his face.

He was again short of room jumping the final flight, but managed to get himself out of trouble on the run-in and got up to beat Ha D’Or by a neck, with The Tide Turns two and a half lengths away in third.

“He’s some horse and he got me out of trouble there today,” said the winning rider.

“On that quicker ground his jumping probably wasn’t as good. He’s never jumped at that speed in his life and he’ll have learned a lot again today.

“He’s a horse with a very big engine. I got pushed in and then I had to try to get down Paul’s inner, but that was never going to happen.

“Once I got over the last and he got running, I knew I was going to get there.

“He could go a long way. He’s not the most straightforward horse to train, he’s had niggly issues, but he seems to be mature and he’s doing things well now.

“He’s doing things right at home and doing them on the track – he could go all the way.”

Ha D’Or’s trainer Willie Mullins took the other Grade Two on the card, with 6-1 shot Bronn coming out on top after a thrilling finish to the awardsandgifts.ie Novice Hurdle.

Bronn (right) in action at Fairyhouse
Bronn (right) in action at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

The five-year-old was given a power-packed ride by Danny Mullins and dug deep from the final obstacle to get the better of Churchstonewarrior and Falcon Eight by half a length and a neck respectively.

“He surprised me on that ground, I thought he might want more juice in it,” said the champion trainer.

“Danny said he was very happy with him on it and he’d like to go further with him on that ground – he said he would improve again.

“We’ll see now whether he comes out of that well enough to go to Punchestown or whether we put him away and go chasing next season.

“He was bought with chasing in mind and that’s the direction he’s going.”

Dorans Weir gained herself some black type when taking the Listed Irish Stallion Farms EBF Total Enjoyment Mares Flat Race for trainer Michael Hourigan and jockey Eoin O’Brien.

A bumper winner at Thurles, the six-year-old was then second behind subsequent Albert Bartlett winner The Nice Guy on the level at Leopardstown in December.

Despite not being seen since, the 9-2 chance was an impressive winner over 7-4 favourite Pink In The Park, prevailing by a length and a quarter.

“She’s a good mare, she’s a dream and I’m lucky to have her. She’s the one that will keep me going for another few years,” said Hourigan.

“She should have won in Leopardstown but maybe if she’d won there, she wouldn’t have won today as she would have had another 3lb.

“We’ll look at Punchestown now, we’ll go for the Grade Three mares’ bumper.

Dorans Weir took Listed honours for Michael Hourigan
Dorans Weir took Listed honours for Michael Hourigan (Niall Carson/PA)

“She has already run in a hurdle race and finished fifth. If she doesn’t run at Punchestown, she’ll be going on her holidays.

“I have only 12 horses riding out but I wouldn’t give away any one of them. They’ve all run well and are young horses.

“I’m 60 years at it now and I’ll be 75 at Christmas.”

Flame Bearer shines brightest for Pat and Jack Doyle

Flame Bearer continued his progression at Naas when taking the Grade Two BetVictor Novice Hurdle in convincing style.

The Pat Doyle-trained seven-year-old was a maiden winner last time out and stepped up in class as one of a field of five for the contest, starting as the evens favourite under Doyle’s son, Jack.

Victorious by two and half lengths from Oliver McKiernan’s Meet And Greet, the Fame And Glory gelding is now set for another graded-race assignment.

“He was very fresh and unfit the first day he ran this season because we had no ground to gallop him on and was then a little unlucky here. He is now doing what we thought he would do,” Doyle said.

“Jack believes he is a two-mile horse but he didn’t get him pulled up until halfway down the back, so I’d say he is a two-mile-four-furlong horse. But we’ll stick with Jack’s opinion for the moment and he’ll go to Fairyhouse (Grade Two hurdle on April 3).

“The plan was always this race and Fairyhouse and we’ll see about Punchestown then. It is working out so far.

“He is bred to get a mile, being out of a Docksider mare, but when I saw him at the Derby Sale, I couldn’t come home without him – he had the biggest walk I have ever seen in a horse and I love Fame And Glorys. He’ll make a lovely chaser.

“This course has been lucky for me and I’ve won two Grade Threes and one Grade Two here.”