Honeysuckle sights set on Hatton’s Grace double

Honeysuckle is reported to be in good heart as she bids for back-to-back wins in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead, the mare has yet to taste defeat in a point-to-point and eight races under Rules.

She won the Irish Champion Hurdle over two miles last season before coming out on top in a great battle with Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

“We’re looking forward to it, she seems in good form and Henry seems happy with her, so let’s hope she’s got plenty of sparkle left,” said Peter Molony, racing manager for owner Kenny Alexander.

Rachael Blackmore celebrates winning her first Grade One in Ireland after last year's Hatton's Grace
Rachael Blackmore celebrates winning her first Grade One in Ireland after last year’s Hatton’s Grace (PA Wire)

“So far two and a half miles has looked her ideal trip – it’s certainly her strongest form anyway. She won a Hatton’s Grace and the Mares’ Hurdle over it last year, but she’s fine over a strongly-run two miles as well.

“I’d imagine, all going well, she’d go on from here to the Irish Champion again and then we’ll make up our minds where we go (which race at Cheltenham) after that.”

Rachael Blackmore will once again team up with the star mare.

Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up Ronald Pump is Honeysuckle’s main challenger on official ratings after he chased home Lisnagar Oscar in March.

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Matthew Smith’s stable star fell at the last in the Lismullen Hurdle won by Sire De Berlais on his return when not completely finished with.

Ronald Pump (right) only found Lisnagar Oscar too good at Cheltenham in March
Ronald Pump (right) only found Lisnagar Oscar too good at Cheltenham in March (Tim Goode/PA)

“He was fine after it, which was the main thing,” said Smith.

“He’s very good over three miles, but there’s nothing for him until Christmas, he’s not a slow horse either.

“It’s the first time he hasn’t worn ear plugs for a long time, he’s not as excitable as he once was and hopefully they might make him a bit sharper as well.

“Honeysuckle is a very smart mare, we know that, but if our lad is in the form he was at Cheltenham, he’d have a chance.

“We’re building towards going back in March. There’s a race for him at Leopardstown over Christmas and they are great races to win, but they are also stepping stones to Cheltenham as we know that suits him.

“For now it will be hurdles all the way – there’s not much point going back chasing as he’s a very good staying hurdler and there aren’t too many.”

Gordon Elliott fields two of the seven runners with Jack Kennedy on Fury Road and Mark Walsh on Cracking Smart.

Fury Road was only beaten a neck by Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and won on his return in a Grade Two at Punchestown.

“Fury Road came out of his recent win at Punchestown in great shape,” Elliott told Betfair.

Fury Road (right) ran a blinder in the Albert Bartlett
Fury Road (right) ran a blinder in the Albert Bartlett (Simon Cooper/PA)

“He is very well in himself and it will be interesting to see how he gets on here as I think the trip might be a little on the sharp side for him, but he is a horse with a high cruising speed and I don’t think he needs a stamina test to be seen at his best.

“He’s got a bit of work to do to get involved, but I think he could show up well.”

Cracking Smart won the Boyne Hurdle last season, but on all known form looks up against it in this company.

“Cracking Smart is quite an idle horse and over the last couple of seasons I’ve noticed that he’s not really at his best until the spring time, so he is best watched for the time being I would say,” added Elliott.

“He would have needed his comeback in the Lismullen Hurdle when he was well beaten when falling and he has come forward for that run, but in reality he has it all to do here.”

The two Elliott runners are owned by Gigginstown House Stud, who are also represented by Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge who steps up in class after impressing twice already this season.

Willie Mullins runs Bacardys and the veteran Supasundae represents Jessica Harrington.

Honeysuckle faces six rivals as she seeks Hatton’s Grace repeat

Honeysuckle bids to take her unbeaten record under National Hunt rules to nine when she goes for back-to-back victories in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

Five of her wins have come at the County Meath venue, including this race last year when she broke Apple’s Jade’s stranglehold in the two-and-a-half-mile feature.

After winning the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February, Henry de Bromhead’s brilliant mare ended a lucrative 2019-20 campaign when lowering the colours of Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Her six rivals include the Willie Mullins-trained Bacardys, who was beaten nine lengths in second place in this race 12 months ago.

Gordon Elliott is two-handed with recent Grade Two Punchestown scorer Fury Road and Cracking Smart.

Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae runs in this race for a third time after finishing second in 2017 and 2018.

Matthew Smith’s Ronald Pump, runner-up in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle, and Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge complete the septet.

Elliott’s exciting young prospect, Envoi Allen, faces just three rivals in the Drinmore Novice Chase.

Unbeaten in bumpers and over hurdles, the Cheveley Park-owned six-year-old took his 100 per cent record under rules to nine with an impressive chasing debut success at Down Royal.

Elliott also saddles Coko Beach while Joseph O’Brien provides the rest of the opposition with Assemble and Home By The Lee. Both have yet to taste defeat over fences.

The other Grade One on the card, the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, has attracted seven runners.

Three are from the Elliott stable – Ballyadam, One Down and The Very Man – while Noel Meade relies on his very promising Cask Mate.

Ted Walsh’s Dewcup, the Mullins-trained N’golo and De Bromhead’s Annexation make up the field.