Honeysuckle aims to extend unbeaten career record to 13 races at Fairyhouse

Mare and Rachael Blackmore team up for hat-trick quest in Hatton’s Grace Hurdle

Rachael Blackmore partners Honeysuckle to victory at Punchestown last April. The pair team up again in tomorrow’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.  Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Rachael Blackmore partners Honeysuckle to victory at Punchestown last April. The pair team up again in tomorrow’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Honeysuckle, jump racing’s ultimate A-list star, will have all eyes upon her when she tries to try and stretch her unbeaten career record to 13 races on Sunday.

Henry De Bromhead’s outstanding mare is the big attraction on a triple-Grade One card that culminates this weekend’s Winter Festival action at Fairyhouse.

Already possessed of a flawless record – including a spotless six out of six at Fairyhouse – on her return to action Honeysuckle has a notable Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle hat-trick in her sights.

If successful, she will emulate Apple’s Jade, Solerina and Limestone Lad as a triple winner of the €100,000 feature.

The odds on Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore pulling off their pristine “lucky 13” will be prohibitive although likely to prove only a minor consideration for most followers of the sport’s poster-partnership.

Honeysuckle’s star power alone will be enough to boost RTÉ2 viewing figures come 2.40pm on Sunday afternoon.

Among her nine opponents are other proven Grade One winners such as Saldier as well as two other top-flight mares, Stormy Ireland and Skyace.

Outstanding performer

Also in the mix is the one-time €1,000 purchase Ronald Pump who got within half a length of Honeysuckle in this race a year ago and has first-time blinkers to help him this time.

However, Honeysuckle’s ability to get the job done whatever the circumstance was stamped all over her final start of last season at Punchestown.

Even when many of her stable companions weren’t firing on all cylinders she still emerged on top.

In contrast De Bromhead’s team is flying at the moment with Honeysuckle giving all the right signals that this outstanding performer is once again ready to live up to her billing.

For a card with a pedigree of throwing up future Cheltenham Festival-winning stars, the presence of such an A-lister isn’t unimportant.

Weather conditions may have turned in time to justify the weekend’s “winter” billing but not enough to boost the two major Grade One novice events.

Time may yet prove there are top-notchers in both the Royal Bond Hurdle and the Drinmore Chase but it is hard not to examine who isn’t lining up as much as who is.

Willie Mullins has three in the Royal Bond and one in the Drinmore but they look to have a distinct second-division feel compared to those left at home.

Kilcruit, Appreciate It, Sir Gerhard, Ferney Hollow and Galopin Des Champs top the betting for most of the Cheltenham novice events and might normally have been expected to have run by now this season.

However, prolonged dry weather has left Mullins taking his time and the upshot is a number of prime Grade One opportunities.

Bookmakers reckon Gavin Cromwell is in pole position to exploit them with My Mate Mozzie already a well backed favourite for the Royal Bond and Gabynako a leading Drinmore player.

The latter got the better of Fury Road on his last start and that pair renew rivalry in a race the latter’s trainer Gordon Elliott has dominated in recent years with six wins.

Lifetime Ambition impressed over Beacon Edge on his chasing debut at Down Royal on soft ground but Cape Gentleman could put his experience to best use in the conditions.

Stepping back up in trip will suit the former Irish Cesarewitch winner who is admirably versatile in terms of ground.

Inspection

Impervious is another unbeaten mare in Grade One action on Sunday in the Royal Bond but My Mate Mozzie looks the one to beat on the back of scoring in the For Auction Hurdle last time.

The onset of real winter action is underlined by an 8am inspection on Sunday morning ahead of a Carlisle card where Willie Mullins hopes to run the smart mare Elimay in a Listed chase.

Before that Mullins continues his relationship with the hugely valuable Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury where he saddles three hopes including the long-time fancy Ontheropes.

Mullins has officially saddled the only Irish trained winner in the last 40 years of a historic contest formerly known as the Hennessy when Total Recall emerged victorious in 2017.

However, he was also first past the post in 2002 with Be My Royal only for that horse to fail a drugs test.

The Mullins trio, along with Henry De Bromhead’s Eklat De Rire, comprises four of the top five in the ratings with only last year’s winner Cloth Cap joining them from the home team.

Earlier on the Newbury card, the De Bromhead-Blackmore team is also in action over fences with Mr Incredible and Sompeueux.

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