Tag Archive for: Hatton’s Grace

Honeysuckle team feeling the tension ahead of Hatton’s Grace hat-trick bid

Connections of Honeysuckle have admitted to feeling the nerves ahead her bid for a record-equalling third victory in the Baroneracing.com Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge will try to become the fourth horse to complete a hat-trick in the Fairyhouse feature after the popular Limestone Lad and two other brilliant mares in Solerina and Apple’s Jade.

Honeysuckle will be a red-hot favourite to take her career record to a perfect 13 victories from 13 starts, and Peter Molony, racing manager to owner Kenny Alexander, said: “There’s a few nerves all right.

“It’s amazing the following she has and in the week leading her up to her running, you see all the stories coming out and everybody is talking about it – the butterflies start to flutter.”

Honeysuckle scraped home by half a length from the reopposing Ronald Pump 12 months ago before raising her game to complete a Champion Hurdle treble at Leopardstown, Cheltenham and Punchestown.

Molony is hopeful the seven-year-old is fitter than she was at the start of last season.

He added: “By Henry’s own admission, she was probably a little short for this race last year. She took a blow for the first time ever in a race I think, but her class and her guts got her home.

“I’d say it’s probably a hotter race on paper this year, but Henry seems to be pretty happy with her – he’s always quite cautious, but he seems as happy as he ever does.

“Please God, first of all she comes home safe and hopefully she can get the job done for us again.”

Ronald Pump was narrowly beaten last year
Ronald Pump was narrowly beaten last year (PA)

Matthew Smith fits Ronald Pump with blinkers for the first time this weekend as he has his first run since finishing fifth in the French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil in May.

He said: “He’s in good shape and ready to run. We’re looking forward to getting him out.

“We’re happy enough. He’s fit and he’s well and we’re hoping for a nice run.

“The blinkers seem to have sharpened him up a little bit, so we’ll give it a go and see how he goes.”

Willie Mullins, who has previously won the Hatton’s Grace with Hurricane Fly, Zaidpour and Arctic Fire, this year saddles Saldier and Stormy Ireland.

The trainer’s son Patrick rides Saldier, who is on a hat-trick after winning the Galway Hurdle and a Grade Three at Tipperary, while Danny Mullins – the trainer’s nephew – is on board Stormy Ireland.

Patrick Mullins said: “It’s great to back on Saldier after the Galway Hurdle. Obviously he’s in good form and hard fit which should be a bit of a help running against horses at the start of their season, but it’s going to be hard to beat Honeysuckle.”

Of Stormy Ireland’s chances, he added: “She has course and distance form and I think this ground will suit her. She’s not one for heavy ground.

“It’s her first run of the season and she’s got quite an aggressive running style, but she deserves to take her chance and hopefully she will pick up more money and more black type.”

Abacadabras after winning the Aintree Hurdle
Abacadabras after winning the Aintree Hurdle (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Gordon Elliott relies on Aintree Hurdle winner Abacadabras with stablemate Sire Du Berlais now a non runner.

“Abacadabras is in good form and I don’t think two and a half miles will be a problem on that ground, but the mare (Honeysuckle) will be hard to beat,” said the Cullentra House handler.

Paul Nolan sends high-class chaser Latest Exhibition back over the smaller obstacles, while Darasso (Joseph O’Brien), and Skyace (Shark Hanlon) complete the field. Sams Profile is also a non runner.

Smith eyes Leopardstown with Ronald Pump

Matthew Smith was delighted to see Ronald Pump push Honeysuckle so close in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Runner-up to Lisnagar Oscar in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, that was the seven-year-old’s outstanding piece of form before Sunday, and Smith believes he has now well and truly proven himself a Grade One performer.

Leopardstown’s three-mile Christmas Hurdle on December 28 is therefore next on his agenda.

“He ran a serious race,” said Smith.

“In another two strides, the ground he was making up, he’d have got her all right – but that’s the way it goes.

“There’s no doubt about it, he’s a Grade One horse.

“They went no gallop and then sprinted turning in, and he was just caught a little flat-footed but then he got going.

“He didn’t jump the last as cleanly as you would have liked, which also stopped him making ground, but I was delighted with the run.

Honeysuckle just held on from Ronald Pump in the Hatton's Grace
Honeysuckle just held on from Ronald Pump in the Hatton’s Grace (PA Wire)

“That’s given us confidence going into Christmas now, because we know he’s back to his best, and he’ll be better off over three miles – the further the better.

“The Stayers’ is his race at Cheltenham, but if he’s sound and everything he’ll have options at Aintree. To show the turn of foot he did on Sunday, that long straight at Aintree over two and a half might suit.

“We were delighted with how well he ran – but having come so close, we were a bit gutted too.”

Honeysuckle digs deep to retain Hatton’s Grace crown

Honeysuckle won the BARONERACING.COM Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse for the second successive year – but she was clinging on in the final strides.

Henry de Bromhead’s hugely talented mare was stretching her unbeaten record under Rules to nine – which includes five Grade Ones – yet she was made to pull out all the stops by Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up Ronald Pump.

Rachael Blackmore always had Honeysuckle in the perfect position, just behind the leader Cracking Smart.

The 4-11 favourite was in front early in the straight, with Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge looking her main challenger.

Honeysuckle got in a little close to the second last, allowing Beacon Edge to close, but the mare hit top gear and flew the last, seemingly putting the race to bed.

However, Ronald Pump, racing over a trip arguably short of his best, began to make ground rapidly under Keith Donoghue and was closing with every stride.

The line came just too soon for him, though, and Honeysuckle held on by half a length – with Beacon Edge back in third and Bacardys fourth.

De Bromhead said: “The winning run continues – she’s just brilliant, tough as.

“Rachael said they really sprinted up the straight, and she had a little blow at the third last, so she’ll come on plenty for it – I’m delighted with the run.

“She just has the real will to win and she toughed it out well. She didn’t win as her odds suggested, but she toughed it out well.

“It was her first run since March – and starting back in a Grade One, you want to have them as fit as you can get them but (also) bearing in mind there’s a long season ahead of you.

“Last year we went for a conditions hurdle before this, so I’m delighted she’s won, and hopefully she’ll step forward for it.

“I think we’re planning on the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February – same as last year – and then we’ll see, but I’m delighted to win today.

Trainer Henry de Bromhead (middle) is hoping Honeysuckle returns to Cheltenham later this season
Trainer Henry de Bromhead (middle) is hoping Honeysuckle returns to Cheltenham later this season (PA)

“It’s possible she showed more speed today, they went slow enough, and Rachael said she really sprinted over the last two.

“I didn’t actually see Epatante yesterday, so that wouldn’t put me off the Champion Hurdle, but we’ll just focus on our mare and see how it all unfolds. At the moment, we’re aiming for the Irish Champion Hurdle and then reassess.”

Blackmore said: “She was brilliant, and it’s great to get her back to do that today. She was coming into this without a prep run this season, and it’s a great result for everyone in the yard.

“She was jumping her hurdles a bit better today and is maturing.

“She might have been just feeling it a bit on her first run after the last, but she gets the job done every day. She’s very special, and I’m lucky to be getting the leg up on her.”