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Honeysuckle to remain over hurdles

Connections of Honeysuckle have confirmed the mare will stay over hurdles for the forthcoming campaign.

The seven-year-old is unbeaten in 12 starts over hurdles, with her four Grade One wins last term encompassing the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

Honeysuckle was a point to point winner before she joined trainer Henry de Bromhead in 2018, but the handler and owner Kenny Alexander have ruled out a move to fences in the immediate future.

Alexander’s racing manager Peter Molony tweeted: “As Honeysuckle enters her final week of hols & after chatting with Henry & Kenny, we’ve decided to keep the Queen over hurdles!

“Fingers & everything crossed for another great year!”

Wren’s Breath is impressive at Naas

Wren’s Breath showed an impressive turn of foot to come from last to first and win the Yeomanstown Stud Irish EBF Stakes at Naas.

Henry de Bromhead’s three-year-old filly, who is blind in one eye, was second on her debut just 11 days earlier yet overcame her inexperience in superb style to claim this Listed prize over six furlongs in the hands of Gary Carroll.

The field split into groups from the start, with Dancin Inthestreet leading on the far side and More Beautiful prominent nearer the stands.

Wren’s Breath (17-2) was in the nearside group but was last of all with two furlongs to runs as the 13-strong field stretched out across the entire course.

The daughter of Elzaam hit top gear as they met the rising ground, and finished so strongly she was three-quarters of a length ahead of More Beautiful at the line – with favourite Teresa Mendoza two lengths away in third.

Carroll said: “She did that nicely. It was a big ask for her second run in a Listed race.

“She’s a filly that is blind in one eye – and when I was behind horses, till halfway, I wasn’t going anywhere.

“I’d say her spatial awareness with one eye is not great. But when I got out and got a bit of daylight she picked up very well and got to the line strong.

“She’s a nice filly – (and) there is more black-type to be got with her. I’d say she’ll learn to sprint, sharpen up, and make into a nice filly.”

Ladies Church ran out a ready winner of the Arqana Irish EBF Marwell Stakes, for trainer Johnny Murtagh.

The daughter of Churchill got off the mark on her second start at Tipperary three weeks ago, and stepped up on that effort to stamp her authority in this Listed contest over five furlongs.

Karl Burke’s British raider Sophie’s Star ploughed a lone furrow on the near side from the start, with the other five runners staying towards the centre of the course.

Pennine Hills took those along, but Ladies Church travelled well behind her before being unleashed by Ben Coen. The 3-1 chance asserted in the final furlong to score by two and a quarter lengths from Pennine Hills. Sophie’s Star stuck on to claim third place.

Coen said: “She was very good. Mark (Dobbin) is a new owner, and I’m delighted to get one for him – he’s invested a lot into Irish racing.

“She’s improved again from Tipperary. I think she’ll get six and I like her – I think she’s smart.

“She picked up, then idled a bit when she got there. I think she’s good – and she can only get better as well.”

Recurrent Dream made a bright start to his career with a smooth success in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden – which opened the evening card.

Produced on the outside to challenge, the 13-8 favourite led half a furlong from home in the hands of Colin Keane to score by a length and three-quarters from Gwan So, for trainer Ger Lyons.

Shane Lyons, assistant to his brother, said: “We’re absolutely delighted with that.

“Vincent (Gaul, owner) had his full-brother Indicative Vote last year, and he’s also by Elzaam. We’ve been very lucky with Elzaam, and so has Vincent.

“He ran in this race to get him ready for the Ballyhane Stakes (at Naas on August 2). The way he did it there, he’s going the right way.

“He’s a lovely horse – we thought the trip would be below his best today, and he would lack experience, but he showed he’s a nice horse.

“He won with his ears pricked. He’s a big baby, and there is a lot of improvement in him. We look forward to getting him home now and see how much he improves.”

Lonsdale Cup could feature on De Bromhead radar for Lismore

Henry II Stakes heroine Lismore could return from a summer break in next month’s Lonsdale Cup at York.

Formerly based in Britain with Sir Mark Prescott, the Zoffany filly provided Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Grand National-winning trainer Henry de Bromhead with big-race success on the Flat when striking Group Three gold at Sandown in May.

The Knockeen handler nominated the Prix du Cadran as a potential end-of-season target in the immediate aftermath and subsequently elected to give the four-year-old some downtime before bringing her back for a late summer and autumn campaign.

De Bromhead confirmed the Lonsdale Cup at York’s Ebor Festival is a potential comeback target.

He said: “She went on a bit of a break and she’s just back in. We’re aiming somewhere probably towards the mid to end of August.

“There’s a couple of options here (in Ireland), but there’s also the Lonsdale Cup (at York).

“Something like that (Prix du Cadran) could be an option later in the year.”

Chacun Pour Soi crowned best chaser as ratings reflect Irish domination

Chacun Pour Soi has been crowned the best chaser trained in Britain or Ireland in the 2020/21 Anglo-Irish Jumps Classification.

The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old won four of his five starts during a tremendous campaign, his only defeat coming when third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

He bounced back to winning ways in the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown the following month, a performance which earned him a mark of 176 and saw him end the season as the highest-rated chaser in training.

Second on the list is Henry de Bromhead’s WellChild Gold Cup hero Minella Indo, who is only a pound behind Chacun Pour Soi on 175.

The eight-year-old got the better of stablemate A Plus Tard (172) in the blue riband, with Al Boum Photo (170) finishing third in his bid for a historic third consecutive Gold Cup victory.

Allaho earned himself a rating of 174 with a brilliant display in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, while the Paul Nicholls-trained Clan Des Obeaux is the highest-rated British-based horse after being given a mark of 172 for his thrilling Punchestown Gold Cup triumph.

Martin Greenwood, BHA Steeplechase Team Leader, said: “With Irish domination a running theme throughout the 2020/21 season, it is no surprise that they head nearly every division in the latest Anglo-Irish list, limited to performances rated 150 and above for the first time.

“Chacun Pour Soi is narrowly rated the top chaser on 176, with stable companion Allaho rated 2lb lower on 174 – topping the middle-distance division – and Minella Indo splitting the pair, while finishing in pole position in the staying category. Aintree and Punchestown winner Clan des Obeaux is the only British-trained horse to feature in the 170s.”

Andrew Shaw, Senior Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board National Hunt handicapper, said: “There was a clean sweep for Irish‐trained horses in all three steeplechase categories.

“Allaho put in a spectacular display of jumping when powering his way to victory in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham. Minella Indo produced the best staying performance of the season in the Gold Cup, and Chacun Pour Soi’s electrifying display in the Champion Chase at Punchestown sees him top the overall chase division.”

Shishkin and Energumene lead the way in the novice-chase division, both earning marks of 169 during campaigns full of promise.

Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin was undefeated in five starts in his first season over fences, culminating with victories in the Arkle at Cheltenham and the Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree.

Shishkin enjoyed a flawless campaign
Shishkin enjoyed a flawless campaign (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Mullins-trained Energumene missed Cheltenham, but won the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown and a Grade One at Punchestown.

Greenwood added: “There are plenty of potential superstars in the novice ranks, topped by Energumene and Shishkin in the two-mile division, the pair both rated 169 and both unbeaten, the only disappointment being that they did not get the chance to race against each other.

“Three horses in the longer-distance divisions are the next best, all rated 163. Royale Pagaille finished the season on a low note after finishing lame in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and both Envoi Allen and Monkfish blotted their copybooks at Punchestown.”

Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle leads the way over hurdles with a rating of 165, a pound clear of a trio of fellow Irish-trained starts on 164 – Sharjah, Stayers’ Hurdle winner Flooring Porter and Klassical Dream.

Honeysuckle after winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham
Honeysuckle after winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham (David Davies/Jockey Club)

The leading novice hurdlers were wide-margin Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Appreciate It (160) and the brilliant Bob Olinger (159), who dominated his rivals in the Ballymore at Cheltenham, while Monmiral (153) rates as the season’s best juvenile following success at Aintree.

Shaw said: “Honeysuckle was the standout hurdler of the season in an unbeaten campaign which resulted in four Grade One victories from as many starts, with the highlight being her scintillating display in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, earning her the season’s highest mark of 165.

“Her rate of improvement over the past couple of years would indicate that there is every chance she could better that figure next season.”

Jumps king De Bromhead conquers Henry II with Lismore

Not content with dominating Cheltenham and Aintree, Henry de Bromhead was in winning action at Sandown as he sent out Lismore to take the Coral Henry II Stakes.

Having her third run for the yard, the ex-Sir Mark Prescott-trained filly was smartly away in the Group Three contest under Jamie Spencer before tracking Nayef Road for much of the way.

Spencer elected to come towards the stands side on entering the straight and soon opened up an advantage as he went for home – one the others were unable to peg back, as the 14-1 shot stayed on strongly to finish four and a half lengths clear of Ranch Hand.

Ocean Wind was the 4-5 favourite after finishing a length behind Stradivarius in the Sagaro Stakes, but finished another 11 lengths adrift in third.

De Bromhead said: “She was brilliant and Jamie was brilliant on her, I’m delighted.

“There are not many two-mile races at home at the moment, so we said we’d give it a go and try to finish third and anything better than that would be a bonus.

“She stays really well, she’s just a big lady and I’d say she’s just improving with time. When you see her size she’s just developing, it’s amazing she could run at three and if she was in our place she probably wouldn’t have – she’s just getting stronger.

“We were hoping for Group Three black type and if we got it we’d be delighted, to see her storm up the hill was incredible – I keep telling Anthony (Rogers, joint-owner) she’d be a lovely horse over a hurdle but he’s not buying it at the moment!

“You know me, I’m never confident and they looked a long way away watching on the big screen, but Jamie committed her and she stays so well.

“I’m not sure she has to get her toe in, but Jamie said she loved it whereas maybe the others didn’t. She’s just a real stayer and so genuine.”

The winner does not hold an entry in the Gold Cup at the moment, so would need to be added to the Ascot field should connections opt to go to the Royal meeting.

De Bromhead added: “I’m not sure about it (supplementing for Gold Cup), it would be up to the Rogers’. It’s quite tough to travel and run over jumps and I presume it would be the same for the Flat ones over the trip, we’ll see. She travelled over here well, so I don’t know.

“We’ve always felt she wanted further and dreaming we mentioned the Prix du Cadran, so we could back off and aim towards the autumn, but that was dreaming.”

De Bromhead was also thrilled to be racing with a crowd once more.

“It’s fantastic, it’s just brilliant, it makes such a difference and it’s great to see it,” he said.

Blackmore in fine form with Killarney treble

Rachael Blackmore enjoyed a hat-trick of winners during a successful day on the opening card of Killarney’s three-day May meeting.

Mr Tambourine Man triumphed on his second run over hurdles when taking the Follow Killarney Races On Instagram Maiden Hurdle to give the Grand National-winning jockey the first leg of her treble when riding for trainer John Halley.

The four-year-old was previously campaigned on the Flat by Aidan O’Brien and joined Halley’s yard in April to embark on his jumping career.

The Galileo gelding was fourth on his hurdling debut at Kilbeggan, a run he built on to come home eight lengths ahead of San Pedro.

“He had a lovely run the last day in Kilbeggan so (he was) stepping up on that,” Blackmore said of the 4-1 scorer. “It was great he could do that today.

“John does loads of schooling with them, but the penny is still only dropping with him on the jumping side of it.”

Blackmore sealed a double after steering Henry de Bromhead’s Cavalry Master to a four-and-a-half-length victory in the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Novice Chase.

A seven-year-old by Milan, the grey Cavalry Master (2-1) was an impressive winner at Kilbeggan and handled another furlong on this occasion with aplomb.

“He stepped up again from the last day and is taking to chasing very well,” Blackmore said.

“In the past he won a two-mile bumper at Kilbeggan, so we weren’t sure if he’d stay, but the last day he stayed really well.

“He was up in trip a little further again today and stayed on well again.”

Gin On Lime (15-8) then became Blackmore’s third winner when she prevailed in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Beginners Chase for De Bromhead, easily beating stablemate and 7-4 favourite Tune The Chello by 42 lengths, having been left clear two out.

“She is a very good mare on her day and really enjoyed it there,” Blackmore said.

“She had a little break and seems to have come back from it really well.

“The ground is on the better side of yielding, she jumped and travelled brilliantly and could go through the summer.”

Noel Meade’s Jesse Evans could head for the Galway Hurdle after victory in the Kelly Farm Modernisation Ltd Handicap Hurdle.

The 9-2 winner was a competitive third at Punchestown and improved on that run to succeed by half a length under Sean Flanagan.

“He is obviously a smart horse and his run at Punchestown was his first in a competitive handicap and it has sharpened him up,” the jockey said.

“He might need a trip in time or exactly what we have had today, a really strong gallop – the Galway Hurdle could be a possibility.”

Getaway Gorgeous became a Listed winner when taking the Tourist Attraction Mares Hurdle for Brian Hayes and Willie Mullins.

Running for the first time since finishing last of 23 runners in the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the mare was this time triumphant as she defeated Western Victory by a length and a half.

The seven-year-old was kept towards the rear of the field for much of the race, but began to pick her rivals off in the final furlongs and overcame a messy jump at the last to prevail at 11-2.

“She landed there at the back of the second-last and I had to keep going then and she jinked at the last when she got a bit of light and was wandering around a bit,” Hayes said.

“She was due to run without a hood in Punchestown, but slipped up on the way to the start and was withdrawn, so today was only her second run without a hood and having no hood today maybe lit the fire again and she won well.

“She ran OK when finishing 10th in the Paddy Mullins Hurdle (in February) which worked out to be a great race and I was delighted with her today.”

Envoi Allen suffered chipped joint in Punchestown defeat

A chipped joint has emerged as a viable excuse for Envoi Allen’s disappointing performance at last week’s Punchestown Festival.

Unbeaten in his first 11 starts under rules, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding met with defeat for the first time after falling when bidding for a third win at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

Hopes were high he could bounce back to his brilliant best for a much-anticipated clash with Monkfish in Punchestown’s Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

However, Henry de Bromhead’s charge was struggling a long way from home before eventually being pulled up by Rachael Blackmore, while Monkfish failed to reel in his stablemate Colreevy.

Things have not gone to plan of late for Envoi Allen
Things have not gone to plan of late for Envoi Allen (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Envoi Allen was found to lame post-race and a subsequent CT scan at Fethard Equine Hospital has revealed the extent of his injury.

Cheveley Park’s managing director Chris Richardson said: “From the results of the investigations, it appears he has (chipped a joint).

“If you look at the picture of him taking off about a furlong before the second fence, it was the most unbelievable leap.

“Rachael obviously did the right thing by pulling him up. You could see that she had one tight rein and one loose rein, so things weren’t as expected.”

Rachael Blackmore with Sir Gerhard at Cheltenham
Rachael Blackmore with Sir Gerhard at Cheltenham (Michael Steele/PA)

Envoi Allen’s Cheltenham mishap was a rare blip at the Festival for the Cheveley Park team, who won with Sir Gerhard, Quilixios and Allaho, and went close to Gold Cup glory with A Plus Tard.

The Cheltenham winners were beaten at Punchestown, but Richardson added: “All the horses have had a long season and we had a wonderful Cheltenham.

“They can all go on holiday now and we can look forward to next year.”

Quilixios seeks to extend unbeaten record

Triumph Hurdle hero Quilixios puts his unbeaten record on the line on the final afternoon of the Punchestown Festival.

Making his first start for Henry de Bromhead after being moved from Gordon Elliott’s stable, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding ran out an authoritative winner of the juvenile championship in the Cotswolds.

The four-year-old renews rivalry on Saturday with the third and fourth from Cheltenham, in the Willie Mullins-trained Haut En Couleurs and Denise Foster’s Zanahiyr.

De Bromhead has high hopes his charge can come out on top once more in the Grade One Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle.

“He’s been really good and looks amazing. Obviously he only came to us just prior to Cheltenham, but he seems in really good form,” said the Waterford-based trainer.

“He seems to have a very high cruising speed – he jumps well and he’s a very exciting horse.

“You’d hope he’d jump a fence, looking at his technique and everything. He’s a lovely, big, scopey horse – he’s a big fella and is exciting for the future.”

The first two from the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham are also in contention.

Jeff Kidder on his way to victory at Fairyhouse
Jeff Kidder on his way to victory at Fairyhouse (Niall Carson/PA)

Noel Meade’s Jeff Kidder, who has since won a Grade Two at Fairyhouse, led Mullins’ Saint Sam home at Prestbury Park – but both need to progress further to match the form of Quilixios.

French raider Mica Malpic (David Cottin), Druid’s Altar (Joseph O’Brien), Palace Rock (Francis Casey) and Zoffanien (Denis Hogan) complete the line-up.

Willie Mullins is responsible for four of the nine runners declared for the Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle – a Grade One contest he has won seven times in the last 10 runnings.

This year’s quartet is headed by Concertista, who is bidding to bounce back from a narrow defeat to Black Tears when odds-on for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Skyace has enjoyed a fantastic season
Skyace has enjoyed a fantastic season (Niall Carson/PA)

The Closutton handler also saddles Burning Victory – not seen since winning last year’s Triumph Hurdle – as well as My Sister Sarah and Stormy Ireland.

There would be no more popular winner than former Mullins inmate Skyace, for trainer Shark Hanlon.

The £600 purchase has won five times this season – most recently claiming Grade One honours in novice company at Fairyhouse.

Hanlon acknowledges the fact his stable star faces a much tougher assignment this weekend, but he is relishing the challenge.

He said: “It’s a step up in class for her, and we’re taking her out of novice company, but this is probably going to be her last run for a while – and she’s entitled to be there.

“She’s in great order and good form. The prize-money is so big as far down as fourth place, so we’ll give it our best shot.

“She’s entitled to take them on.”

Another ex-Mullins runner Laurina makes her first start for new connections, with Global Equity (Joseph O’Brien), Minella Melody (De Bromhead) and Politesse (Lorna Fowler) the other hopefuls.

Honeysuckle out to complete Champion double

Henry de Bromhead is delighted with Honeysuckle as the dream mare bids to take her perfect record under rules to 12 in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.

Honeysuckle has simply gone from strength to strength and has already won seven Grade Ones.

Her latest triumph at the top level came at the Cheltenham Festival last month when she lifted the biggest prize of them all, the Champion Hurdle.

Success on Friday would be a fitting way to cap her remarkable campaign.

Honeysuckle has never run at Punchestown – but it is where she was sold for €110,000 three years ago, just days after winning a point-to-point. She went to be trained by De Bromhead – and the rest is history.

“Every Sunday morning she reminds me how good she could be over fences as she just starts popping away and she does jump them really well,” he said.

“She’s done that all her life, so we don’t really think about it, and to win at Punchestown would be brilliant. It’s where we started the journey.”

De Bromhead was thrilled by her success at Cheltenham.

“She came off the bridle a little coming down the hill, but once she came upsides it was nice to watch,” he added.

“I was surprised she was that far back, but obviously it worked out – Rachael (Blackmore) was brilliant on her. They’re a great combination.

“She seems good. This is the first time she has run back after travelling, so that’s different. But she seems really well, and we’re happy.

“We’ll see about chasing – it’s something to discuss in the summer. She’s so good over hurdles you wonder if you can visualise her in a mares’ beginners’ chase somewhere.”

Blackmore and Honeysuckle have been an invincible partnership for the past three seasons.

“I love riding her, but that goes without saying,” the Grand National-winning jockey told BetVictor.

“She was incredible in Cheltenham, and seems to be improving all the time.

“She seems to have come out of Cheltenham really well. She didn’t go to Punchestown last year, but seems so well this year we’re hoping to keep it going.

“I think her performances this year show she’s improving. From the Irish Champion to Cheltenham, she’s improved with every run – and I’m just very lucky to have her.”

De Bromhead boosts his challenge with Champion Hurdle fourth Aspire Tower and Jason The Militant accompanying their illustrious stablemate.

“Aspire Tower will take her on again,” added the County Waterford handler.

“He’s in great form and came out of Cheltenham well, but his jumping let him down a bit there.

“Jason The Militant was a bit unfortunate (to unseat) at Aintree, but he seems in mighty form.

“It was frustrating. But he came back safe and sound, and we can’t complain too much.”

Sharjah, runner-up to Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, takes the mighty mare on again and is Willie Mullins’ only representative in the race.

“Sharjah ran a fantastic race in Cheltenham,” said the champion trainer.

“I don’t think he could have improved much more.”

Former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante will be taking on Honeysuckle again
Former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante will be taking on Honeysuckle again (Tim Goode/PA)

Epatante was only third in the defence of her Cheltenham crown. But connections are pleased with the Nicky Henderson-trained mare as she has another crack at Honeysuckle. It is also her first race in Ireland.

“It’s a great race, and Honeysuckle is going to be very hard to beat,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.

“Nicky’s very happy with her, but he was happy with her going to Cheltenham as well. She has a bit to do to reverse the placings – Honeysuckle is very good and she is going to take a lot of beating.

“We just hope she runs a big race.”

Bob Olinger misses Punchestown outing

Bob Olinger is a late absentee from Friday’s Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle.

Henry de Bromhead’s hugely impressive Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle winner was found to be coughing on the morning of the race.

Having claimed a clean sweep of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at Cheltenham, De Bromhead has yet to fire at Punchestown – and Gold Cup hero Minella Indo was also a late absentee with a stone bruise.

De Bromhead had earlier taken out Decimation, who only ran two days ago.

In their absence only four remain, with three trained by Willie Mullins.

Jessica Harrington’s saddles Ashdale Bob, who was a narrow Grade Two winner at Fairyhouse this month.

“He’s probably up against it, but he hasn’t gone to Cheltenham and he’s won two Grade Twos, so he’s entitled to take his chance,” she said.

“It was great to see him win at Fairyhouse.”

Mullins’ runners are headed by Gaillard Du Mesnil, who was second to Bob Olinger at Cheltenham, with Ganapathi and N’golo completing the field.

Mullins said on his website: “Gaillard Du Mesnil came out of the Cheltenham race well. Realistically our other two runners are running for place money.

“Ganapathi found the trip too sharp in the County Hurdle, but that experience will help him here.

“N’golo ran too free in the Albert Bartlett but a change of tactics here might enable him to get a good share of the prize money.”

Concertista heads Mullins’ quartet in Mares Champion Hurdle

Willie Mullins launches a four-pronged assault as he bids to continue his dominance of the Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.

The champion trainer has saddled seven of the last 10 winners of Saturday’s Grade One contest, with brilliant mares Annie Power and Benie Des Dieux both landing back-to-back renewals.

This year’s quartet is headed by Concertista, who was a beaten odds-on favourite at the Cheltenham Festival last month when touched off by Black Tears in the Mares’ Hurdle.

Mullins also runs Burning Victory – not seen since winning the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last year – as well as My Sister Sarah and Stormy Ireland, who returned from a spell with Paul Nicholls to make a successful second debut for the Closutton yard at Fairyhouse over Easter.

Former Mullins inmate Skyace would be a popular winner for trainer Shark Hanlon.

Bought for the bargain-basement price of £600, the six-year-old has since won five races, including a Grade One success – a first for her trainer – at Fairyhouse on her latest appearance.

Another ex-Mullins runner Laurina makes her first start for new connections.

Global Equity (Joseph O’Brien), Minella Melody (Henry de Bromhead) and Politesse (Lorna Fowler) complete the nine-strong field.

Grade One honours are also up for grabs in the following Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, in which Triumph Hurdle hero Quilixios renews rivalry with a couple of Cheltenham foes.

The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding made a successful first start for De Bromhead, having been moved from Gordon Elliott’s yard, when powering up the famous hill in the Cotswolds last month.

He is taken on again by the Mullins-trained third Haut En Couleurs and Denise Foster’s fourth Zanahiyr.

The first two from the Boodles at Cheltenham are also in the mix – Noel Meade’s Jeff Kidder and Mullins’ Saint Sam.

Jeff Kidder has since continued his progression with a Grade Two success at Fairyhouse.

David Cottin’s Mica Malpic is an intriguing challenger from France, with Druid’s Altar (O’Brien), Palace Rock (Francis Casey) and Zoffanien (Denis Hogan) completing the field.

Honeysuckle heads Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle field

Henry de Bromhead fires a three-strong team in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown – with the peerless Honeysuckle at the forefront.

The brilliant mare has taken her form to a new level this season, winning a second Irish Champion Hurdle before a dominant display in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

She is 11 from 11 under Rules and is odds-on to remain unbeaten against seven rivals on Friday.

De Bromhead also fields the five-year-old Aspire Tower, a fine fourth at Cheltenham, and Jason The Militant who unseated Rachael Blackmore at Aintree.

Denise Foster’s Abacadabras returned to winning ways at Aintree, though, and will ensure Honeysuckle does not face a stroll in the park.

Willie Mullins’ Sharjah got closest to her last month and also lines up, as does Nicky Henderson’s Epatante – winner of the 2020 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

With Goshen and Darver Star completing the eight-strong field, the race is set to be one of the highlights of the week.

Just six have been declared in the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle – and they include De Bromhead’s Decimation, due to run on Wednesday.

Stablemate Bob Olinger is the headline act, though, after his imperious display at Cheltenham in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

Mullins will field three of his rivals – Gaillard Du Mesnil, who proved no match for him at Cheltenham, Ganapathi  and N’Golo.

Jessica Harrington’s Ashdale Bob, a Grade Two winner at Fairyhouse last time out, is also in the field. But Mullins’ Supreme winner Appreciate It is a notable absentee.

Minella Indo ruled out of Punchestown with bruised foot

Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo has been ruled out of the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday with a bruised foot.

Henry de Bromhead was forced to pull the plug on his intended seasonal swansong when he discovered the problem on Monday.

Minella Indo led home a historic one-two for the trainer in the Gold Cup last month, when beating stablemate A Plus Tard.

“It’s a very minor thing, but it’s the right thing to do and we thought we’d let everybody know sooner rather than later,” said De Bromhead.

“He just didn’t seem right when we were looking at him and when we had a look he’s bruised the sole of his foot.

“We’ll call it a day now, he’s had a great season.”

Minella Indo’s win capped a fantastic Cheltenham for the De Bromhead team, having also won the Champion Hurdle with Honeysuckle and the Champion Chase with Put The Kettle On – the first time all three feature races had been won by the same trainer in one year.

De Bromhead then went on to saddle the first two home in the Grand National with Rachael Blackmore creating history on Minella Times, beating Balko Des Flos.

In the absence of Minella Indo, Al Boum Photo, who had won the previous two Gold Cups at Cheltenham and was third this year, is the new 13-8 favourite with Coral.

Al Boum Photo (left) is now favourite for the Punchestown Gold Cup
Al Boum Photo (left) is now favourite for the Punchestown Gold Cup (Michael Steele/PA)

“Not much has gone wrong for Henry de Bromhead in recent weeks, but the setback to Minella Indo means the trainer won’t be adding the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup to his incredible big-race haul this season,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

A field of six will now line up, including a four-pronged challenge from the Willie Mullins stable, with last year’s winner Kemboy, Easy Game and Melon joining Al Boum Photo.

Paul Nicholls sends over Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the Betway Bowl at Aintree this month, while Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies is the other contender.

Cheltenham Festival winners Galopin Des Champs and Vanillier clash in the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.

The latter lifted the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle for Gavin Cromwell, while the Mullins-trained Galopin Des Champs took the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Vanillier will be out to follow up his Cheltenham success at Punchestown on Wednesday
Vanillier will be out to follow up his Cheltenham success at Punchestown on Wednesday (Tim Goode/PA)

Mullins also has Albert Bartlett fourth Stattler – with the third, John McConnell’s Streets Of Doyen, also in the mix in an eight-runner field.

Sir Gerhard, for the Mullins stable, is the headline act in the third Grade One race on the card, the ITM – Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race.

The six-year-old attempts to take his perfect record under Rules to four after his success in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

He got the better of stable companion Kilcruit by half a length that day, and the pair clash again in a mouth-watering contest.

Mick Halford’s Ardla, Eric Bloodaxe from Joseph O’Brien’s yard and Stuart Crawford’s O’Toole are also among the eight runners.

Envoi Allen seeking Punchestown redemption

Envoi Allen bids to put Cheltenham disappointment behind him when meeting Monkfish in a much-anticipated clash at Punchestown on Tuesday.

Already a dual Cheltenham Festival winner having won the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned Envoi Allen was widely expected to complete the hat-trick on his return to the Cotswolds for the Marsh Novices’ Chase last month.

However, having barely put a foot wrong in three previous outings over fences, Envoi Allen fell at the fourth obstacle at Cheltenham on what his first start for trainer Henry de Bromhead after being moved from Gordon Elliott’s yard.

De Bromhead reports the seven-year-old in rude health ahead of his latest assignment in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase, but is wary of the threat posed by the Willie Mullins-trained Monkfish – winner of the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

He said: “I think we know him a bit better now. He seems much more settled, even schooling him the other morning. He seems really good and we’re happy with him.

“Of course you have to respect Monkfish – he’s been impressive all year. Perhaps Cheltenham was his least impressive (performance), but prior to that he’s been unreal.

“It looks a brilliant race, you want these top horses taking each other on.

“We haven’t done anything different, he had some physio and he’s schooled well since, I think we’ve done all we can.”

Monkfish after winning at Cheltenham
Monkfish after winning at Cheltenham (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Monkfish was more solid than spectacular in extending his unbeaten record over fences to four at Prestbury Park, but is nevertheless the marginal favourite over Envoi Allen.

Mullins also runs Colreevy – who on the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham – and Franco De Port.

“Monkfish didn’t jump with the same flair that he jumped (with previously) and he didn’t gallop with the same flair (at Cheltenham),” said the champion trainer.

“Colreevy has been covered by Walk In The Park and this will probably be her last run. The Flynns (owners) are out-and-out breeders and she is a fantastic looking mare and hopefully she’ll be lucky.

“From winning the Arkle at Christmas over two miles, I’m putting Franco De Port in over three miles and that will tell us where we are going next year.”

Mullins also possesses a strong hand in the first of three Grade Ones on the card, the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle.

With Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Appreciate It a notable absentee, the Closutton handler relies upon Blue Lord – who fell at the last when seemingly booked for second in the Supreme – and dual Grade Two-winning mare Echoes In Rain.

Mullins said: “Blue Lord was going to run a fantastic race at Cheltenham before he fell at the last. I think he will improve for the flatter track and the nicer ground we will have at Punchestown.

“Echoes In Rain is interesting. Her performance in Fairyhouse was very good and she is getting a nice fillies allowance, so we’ll see.”

Uhtred (Joseph O’Brien), Colonel Mustard (Lorna Fowler) and Dewcup (Ted Walsh) are the other hopefuls.

Minella Indo bids for famous double at Punchestown

Minella Indo heads a field of seven for the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup.

Henry de Bromhead’s eight-year-old will bid to become the fourth Cheltenham Gold Cup winner this century to complete the coveted double in the same season after Kicking King (2005), War Of Attrition (2006) and Sizing John (2017).

Jack Kennedy, who partnered Minella Indo to glory at Cheltenham, retains the ride on Wednesday.

He faces a four-pronged challenge from Willie Mullins’ stable, including last year’s winner Kemboy.

Al Boum Photo, winner of the Gold Cup in 2019 and 2020 and third this year, takes on Minella Indo again. Easy Game and Melon complete Mullins’ team.

Paul Nicholls sends over Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the Betway Bowl at Aintree this month, while Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies is the other contender.

Cheltenham Festival winners Galopin Des Champs and Vanillier clash in the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.

The latter lifted the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle for Gavin Cromwell, while the Mullins-trained Galopin Des Champs took the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Vanillier will be out to follow up his Cheltenham success at Punchestown on Wednesday
Vanillier will be out to follow up his Cheltenham success at Punchestown on Wednesday (Tim Goode/PA)

Mullins also has Albert Bartlett fourth Stattler – with the third, John McConnell’s Streets Of Doyen, also in the mix in an eight-runner field.

Sir Gerhard, for the Mullins stable, is the headline act in the third Grade One race on the card, the ITM – Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race.

The six-year-old attempts to take his perfect record under Rules to four after his success in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

He got the better of stable companion Kilcruit by half a length that day, and the pair clash again in a mouth-watering contest.

Mick Halford’s Ardla, Eric Bloodaxe from Joseph O’Brien’s yard and Stuart Crawford’s O’Toole are also among the eight runners.