Honeysuckle makes it a sweet 16 in-a-row after Champion Hurdle glory at Punchestown


Rachael Blackmore was full of praise for the superstar mare

Friday, April 29, 2022
Honeysuckle042922 Punchestown

Honeysuckle claimed her 16th career win to remain undefeated over hurdles


Honeysuckle was at her brilliant best to win the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown for a second straight year and continue her golden partnership with Rachael Blackmore, writes Jack Lacey-Hatton.

Henry de Bromhead’s superstar mare finished off another remarkable season of success, completing her 16th win in a row after moving ahead of long-time leader Saint Roi at the final bend.

She was a heavily odds-on favourite at 1-5 but the star attraction delivered her best in the feature race of the day, pulling away to the soundtrack of a rapturous roar from the largest crowd of the week so far.

A terrific run from Echoes In Rain for Willie Mullins saw her stalk Honeysuckle at the last flight but she eventually finished second, while Darasso was third for Joseph O’Brien.

But Honeysuckle was cool throughout, producing some economically jumping before finding another gear, as she always does, on the run for home.

The final race of Robbie Power’s career didn’t quite provide a fairytale finish for the veteran as he came home sixth on-board Teahupoo.

Blackmore revealed after the win that, despite some strong challenges, she never doubted the invincible mare's ability to get the job done.

 

“I have ridden her enough now to know what she’s capable of,” she said. “It took me a few strides to get her going turning in, but I was never that worried to be honest. I know about the engine she has.

“She is incredibly talented, I’m just lucky to be on her back and Henry is lucky to be training her.

“She is a phenomenally talented mare who always does what she has to do.

“Every jockey dreams of getting on a good horse, you can’t achieve things on the big days without that. But she takes that into a whole other level, by blowing good horses out of the water.

“She is phenomenal and I’m just lucky to be riding her. The reception was magic, such a deep crowd the whole back in, it is just fantastic.”

In the day's other highlight, the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle, State Man won decisively to give Mullins and Paul Townend a sixth Grade 1 of the week.

The five-year-old, a 11-10 favourite with the bookmakers, backed up his County Hurdle win at Cheltenham last month with an impressive performance, coming home well clear of Flame Bearer in second.

In the end the gap was seven lengths, State Man moving away with ease after tracking the leaders throughout the two-mile three furlong contest.

Gordon Elliott’s Three Stripe Life was back in third, unable to repeat his efforts from Aintree where only a few weeks ago he won the Mersey Novice Hurdle.

The winner could now target the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next year, according to Mullins.

“He looks a very good horse,” the leading trainer said after the win. “He could progress up to senior ranks next year and is possibly even a Champion Hurdle contender for next year.

“He will have no problem going back to two miles, it might even suit him better.”

Victorious jockey Townend added: “He is lovely. He overcame the lack of experience at Cheltenham, which is a sign he is a good horse.

“He passed the next test today. He has pace and he stays, so that is usually the sign of a good one.

“I wasn’t worried about stepping up, he jumped well throughout. Once I got hold of him again after the fourth from home, I was never really worried.

“It was an even gallop and we picked it up. I think he is a very nice horse.”

Mullins later picked up his 200th win of the Irish National Hunt season courtesy of Billaway in the Irish Daily Star Champion Hunters Chase.

The Cheltenham Festival winner, who had Patrick Mullins on board, went over the last level with Vaucelet and capitalised on a poor jump by the favourite to pull clear.

Day four had earlier started with a moment Ian Cribbin will never forget, as he picked up his first racecourse winner on the big stage.

Cribbin steered home 15-2 shot Jezarus in the Stanley Asphalt Hunters Chase for the Bishopscourt Cup and was cheered in to the winners enclosure by a large contingent of his footballing teammates from Clane

The reception was magic - Rachael Blackmore 

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