The legendary Honeysuckle heads nine remaining entries for the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle, one of three Grade 1 races at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
Henry de Bromhead’s superstar mare joined a trio of greats, Limestone Lad, Solerina and Apple’s Jade, as a three-time winner of the race a year ago and she is set to bid for a record fourth success on her eagerly anticipated seasonal return this weekend.
The eight-year-old is unbeaten in 16 racecourse starts and remarkably seven of those wins have come at Fairyhouse. Standing in her way are a trio from the Willie Mullins stable, Klassical Dream, Echoes In Rain and Saldier.
Darver Star got as close to Honeysuckle as any other horse when going down by just a half-a-length in the 2020 Irish Champion Hurdle and Gavin Cromwell’s rejuvenated ten-year-old is set to take on the unbeaten wonder mare once again on the back of winning his last three outings in a row.
Gordon Elliott has left in Sire Du Berlais, who conquered Flooring Porter in the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree's Grand National meeting in April, Teahupoo and Commander Of Fleet with Ashdale Bob set to represent Jessica Harrington.
Famously, Gordon Elliott gained his first Grade 1 success with Jessies Dream in the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase in 2010 and three years later he won the race with subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack. Elliott looks to have a strong hand for Sunday’s renewal with Hollow Games, Mighty Potter, Three Stripe Life and Minella Crooner standing their ground as he attempts to land the Grade 1 for a record-extending seventh time.
There are five Willie Mullins-trained contenders with recent winners Adamantly Chosen, El Barra and Authorized Art in the mix along with this year’s Irish Grand National third Gaillard Du Mesnil and Shadow River with the Joseph O'Brien-trained Banbridge an intriguing contender.
It is set to be a big weekend for trainer Barry Connell who aims two of his stable stars at Grade 1 races. Enniskerry remains on track for the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase while the unbeaten Marine Nationale heads for the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
In all, 11 horses remain in the first of Sunday’s Grade 1 races with Willie Mullins leaving Champ Kiely, Hercule Du Seuil, Ashroe Diamond and Polo Lounge in the race while Gordon Elliott still has Irish Point, Three Card Brag and Imagine. The Henry de Bromhead-trained Inthepocket, Gavin Cromwell’s Path D’oroux and Prairie Dancer also go forward to Friday’s final declaration stage.
A total of 26 horses remain in the Baroneracing.com Handicap Hurdle with Tony Martin’s hat-trick seeker Nibiru and his dual Guinness Galway Hurdle winner Tudor City, Willie Mullins’ Icare Allen and the Noel Meade-trained Pinkerton chief among them.
Barney O’Hare, CEO of Bar One Racing, said, “We are really looking forward to the weekend, especially Sunday’s card. It’s exciting to attach the Bar One Racing brand to such a prestigious fixture. Honeysuckle will start a very short price for a fourth consecutive Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. She is box office and her presence will attract massive interest from far and wide. The Bar One Racing Drinmore is shaping up to be competitive. It looks likely that Gordon Elliott could be two or three handed in it. Hopefully the Bar One Racing Royal Bond attracts a healthy field, and Champ Kiely could be a big player with Willie Mullins chasing a sixth win in the last nine years. Outside of the Grade Ones, the supporting card is top class. We’ve got competitive handicaps, the best juvenile hurdle of the year so far and a bumper that invariably produces a very smart horse.”
Peter Roe, General Manager of Fairyhouse Racecourse, added, “We are very excited for what should be a very informative weekend’s racing when Honeysuckle will be bidding for history as the first four-time winner of the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. The ground is currently yielding to soft with an overcast weather forecast with occasional showers which should ensure perfect jumping ground. I would encourage people to book online for pre-raceday discounts for what should be a day to remember.”
Click here for the entries for Fairyhouse on Saturday
Click here for the entries for Fairyhouse on Sunday