Henry de Bromhead is preparing to take the wraps off stable star Honeysuckle, who will bid to defend her Baroneracing.com Hatton’s Grace Hurdle crown at Fairyhouse later this month.
The six-year-old is unbeaten in eight starts for De Bromhead so far – counting this race, the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on her tally last term.
Those three Grade One triumphs took Honeysuckle’s top-level career victories to four and the daughter of Sulamani will be seeking a sixth Fairyhouse win when she contests the November 29 highlight.
De Bromhead said: “She’s brilliant and we’re very lucky to have her. It was a great performance that day (last year). She seems in good form so hopefully she can have another good go at it this time.
“The first day (she ran) she was good, but she’s just progressed and progressed. She’s not a mare that would take a huge amount of work, so you wouldn’t be working her a lot at home.
“Fairyhouse seems to have a lot of nice mares’ races there and they provide such good ground for their bigger days, so it’s great to be able to run them there. By coincidence as much as anything, she’s done a lot of racing there.”
Honeysuckle and Benie Des Dieux fought out a memorable finish to the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and that race, along with the Champion Hurdle, will be on the radar again this season, if all goes to plan.
De Bromhead said: “If she’s in the same form as she was last year, we would start in the Hatton’s Grace and probably aim for the Irish Champion Hurdle and then reassess everything after that.
“I imagine if everything has gone well, she will get an entry for the Champion Hurdle and the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and we’ll see nearer the time what we decide to do.”
Honeysuckle was a point-to-point winner before joining De Bromhead and when asked if the mare could possibly embark on a chasing career in the future, he added: “I would say so.
“She’s achieving so much over hurdles, but in fairness to her, some days she loose schools over a fence so she’s keeping her eye in with it and, touch wood, she seems very good with it. We’ll see, but that could happen.”
The Hatton’s Grace is one of three Grade Ones at Fairyhouse’s Winter Festival, along with the Drinmore Novices’ Chase and the Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle, all of which are backed by Bar One Racing.
De Bromhead has two possibles for the later event, with Sunday’s Navan Grade Three runner-up Annexation in the mix along with Irascible, won made a winning debut for the yard at Clonmel last month.
The trainer said: “Annexation ran really well (at Navan), he’s a lovely horse – he wears his heart on his sleeve. He was probably a bit keen there. They didn’t go much of a gallop, then Rachael (Blackmore) thought she was struggling, but then she thought she got there too soon.
“He has loads of class, he’s won on quick ground, soft ground, he jumps, he won over a seven furlongs on the Flat – he’s just a lovely horse to have.
“He’s entered and we also have Irascible, who won his maiden hurdle first time out for us the other day. They’re both entered and we’ll see nearer the time what we do.”
The Winter Festival kicks off on November 28, and De Bromhead could be represented in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares’ Hurdle, a race that was initially due to be run as a Grade One at Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting before the Covid-19 shutdown.
De Bromhead won the equivalent event with Honeysuckle in 2019 and Minella Melody, who returned with second place in a Galway Grade Three last month, is in line to challenge.
He added: “It’s a little disappointing it’s not a Grade One. The mares of that generation, I’m not sure they got a crack at any Grade One throughout the year. The mares’ novice in Cheltenham is a Grade Two, so it’s a little bit disappointing, but I’m sure there’s a very good reason.
“It’s fantastic they’ve salvaged it as a Grade Two though.
“Minella Melody will have a go at that. She had a good year last year, (but) she was a bit disappointing in Cheltenham (18th in Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle). She’s quite a stuffy mare, so we said we would give her a run at Galway the other day and hopefully that will have her spot on for the race.”