Henry de Bromhead’s superstar mare
Honeysuckle has been installed as the odds-on favourite to defend her Unibet
Champion Hurdle crown after being named as one of 23 entries for the opening
day showpiece at Cheltenham.
The unbeaten eight-year-old won the contest
by six-and-a-half lengths last year, providing the first of Rachael Blackmore’s
six wins over the course of an unforgettable week as she became the first
female leading jockey in the Festival’s history.
Blackmore has been in the saddle for all
13 of Honeysuckle’s victories under rules, the most recent of which came at the
BARONERACING.COM Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November, though the
chasing pack is led by last year’s Champion Hurdle runner-up Sharjah for Willie
Appreciate It, who has not raced since a
dominant 21-length victory in the 2021 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, is
another Closutton contender who looks well placed to challenge while Zanahiyr
and Teahupoo are among Gordon Elliott’s entries.
Gavin Cromwell and Noel Meade have
entered My Mate Mozzie and Cask Mate respectively, with over half of the 23
entries trained in Ireland.
The English challenge is set to be led by
Nicky Henderson’s Epatante, third last year, while stablemate Buveur D’Air is
seeking a third Champion Hurdle having won in 2017 and 2018.
Mullins holds the ante-post favourite in
the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle in Klassical Dream, with Burning Victory,
Asterion Forlonge and Melon among the reigning Irish champion trainer’s other
Reigning Stayers champion Flooring
Porter, who provided Festival glory for Cromwell and Danny Mullins last March, is also well
fancied having been beaten only by Klassical Dream in the Dornan Engineering
Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown a fortnight ago.
Two-time Festival winner Sire Du Berlais
is among Elliott’s entries while Peter Fahey has put forward Royal Kahala.
Telmesomethinggirl, who won the Mares’
Hurdle in 2021, will bid to retain her crown for De Bromhead and Blackmore this
time around in a race which has attracted eight Mullins entries including