Honeysuckle makes it a sweet 16 of wins in front of record Punchestown crowd

A crowd of just under 41,000 cheered home jockey Rachael Blackmore on star mare

Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle stretched their unbeaten record to a 'Sweet 16' races in front of a record crowd at the Punchestown festival on Friday.

Jump racing's headline act lived up to their billing with victory in the €300,000 Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at prohibitive odds of 1-5.

Honeysuckle proved three lengths too good for the 18-1 shot Echoes In Rain and Blackmore acclaimed the Henry de Bromhead-trained star as “phenomenal”.

The jockey said: “She took a little bit of stoking up today but she always does what she has to do.


“When we turned in I did have to ask her for that gear and she found it and away we went. I can always feel when there is something coming because she can sense it too and she kicks on.”

The partnership received a huge ovation from a modern day festival record attendance of 40,984, who also applauded jockey Robbie Power after ending his career in the big race.

Blackmore had joked with Power beforehand there would be no fairytale exit and his final mount, Teahupoo, finished last.

It was Honeysuckle's 12th Grade One success and she remains a 7-2 chance to complete a Champion Hurdle hat-trick at Cheltenham next March.

That could see her clash with the exciting unbeaten English novice Constitution Hill who is a general 2-1 favourite to dethrone the reigning queen.

Before that another benchmark figure will be in Honeysuckle’s sights as she closes in on Altior’s modern day record of 19 straight wins over obstacles.

However, the Irish mare has never tasted defeat in her stellar career.

De Bromhead indicated the hugely popular horse will follow a similar campaign to this season, with four more races before the curtain comes down on her racing career.

“The fairytale continues – it’s ridiculous. I’m so negative, I’m always waiting for something bad to happen. But it’s amazing. I’m delighted and so lucky to be involved with her,” the trainer said.

“I do feel the pressure. There’s an unbeaten record and you want her to do it for everybody.

“There’s such a will for her to win. I said it at Cheltenham, if will helps you to win races she’d have won the length of the straight. She’s got such great support. Hopefully everyone gets as much of a kick out of it as we all do,” he added.

The mare, owned by Scottish businessman Kenny Alexander, took her prizemoney earnings to €1.5 million with her latest success.

De Bromhead described horse and jockey as a “lethal combination” and praised Blackmore’s cool ride.

“Rachael’s brilliant on her. There’s a lot of pressure going out on her nowadays,” he said.

“They went a good gallop and everything went really well. She jumped really well and she came up out of Rachael’s hands at the third last. She’s just so accurate and Rachael’s just so good on her – she doesn’t interfere at all,” De Bromhead added.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column