Honeysuckle poised for Irish Champion Hurdle clash after Hatton's Grace romp

The original plan was to target the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore won the Hattons Grace Hurdle on Sunday

Sunday's runaway Hatton's Grace winner Honeysuckle could clash with Klassical Dream in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, as connections eye up one more run before the Cheltenham Festival, writes Stuart Riley.

In the wake of her nine-length victory over Bacardys, with ten-time Grade 1 winner Apple's Jade back in third, connections would not rule out a possible crack at the Unibet Champion Hurdle come March, but stressed they were still keen to stick to the original plan and were "95 per cent" sure to target the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle.

The unbeaten five-year-old holds Grade 1 entries at Leopardstown in the Matheson Hurdle over two miles and the Christmas Hurdle over three, but will now be given a short break.

Upon her return in the new year, she could be dropped back in trip with the tantalising possibility of a clash with a host of the best two-mile hurdlers around at the Dublin Racing Festival at the beginning of February. Gowran Park's Red Mills Hurdle two weeks later is the other potential stepping stone.

Peter Molony, who purchased the unbeaten €110,000 mare after her point-to-point win and acts as racing manager to her owner Kenny Alexander, said: "The original plan was always the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham and we've worked back from there.

"The plan was two runs before Christmas, then a little break, then a prep run before Cheltenham and we're still probably looking at that.

"She's in the two- and three-mile Grade 1s at Leopardstown over Christmas but is unlikely to go there. We'll probably stick to the original plan and go for something like the Irish Champion at Leopardstown, or the Red Mills at Gowran, and then straight to Cheltenham.

"It's yet to be finalised, we will sit down again in the next few days, but that's been the original plan and I don't think we'll deviate."

Victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle would increase the temptation to go down the championship route, but Molony explained: "She'll be entered in both [the Champion Hurdle and Mares' Hurdle] and we'll keep our options open, but I don't want anyone to be under any illusions. We're huge fans of the mares' programme, we've been trying to encourage it for years, it's there now and this has been the plan forever for her.


"I'd say it's 95 per cent she'll go for the Mares' Hurdle, obviously there's a little idea in the background saying 'what about the Champion Hurdle?' so that's the five per cent, but I'd be virtually positive she'll go for the Mares'.

"Kenny's whole idea is to build a nice breeding operation tilted towards racemares and broodmares, which is why he'd love to win the Mares' Hurdle.

"Any race at Cheltenham is tough and a lot of things have to go right between now and then. The Mares' is certainly not going to be an easy race but that's where we're likely going at this stage."

Kenny's whole idea is to build a nice breeding operation tilted towards racemares and broodmares, which is why he'd love to win the Mares' Hurdle.
- Peter Molony


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