Unbeaten Honeysuckle is on course for an Irish Champion Hurdle hat-trick bid at the Dublin Racing Festival next month, connections have confirmed.
The brilliant mare won last year's renewal by 10 lengths before going on to justify favouritism in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
She made it 13 wins from 13 starts when seeing off Ronald Pump in the Grade One Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November and, just as she did last season, was kept under wraps over the Christmas period before appearing at Leopardstown in February.
Her trainer, Henry De Bromhead, had a quiet spell over Christmas, recording just four winners from 74 runners in the last two weeks.
However, the Kenny Alexander-owned mare's racing manager, Peter Molony, is not unduly worried about the stable's form.
Molony said: “There is no cause for concern on that score. Henry decided to ease off her a bit after her last run. Everything is under control and she is on course for the Irish Champion at Leopardstown in early February.”
Honeysuckle is odds-on with most firms to retain her Champion Hurdle crown on March 15th.
John Hanlon is set to bring Skyace over to Sandown in a bid to get her back on track in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Mares' Hurdle on Saturday.
Little has gone right for the seven-year-old since she won the Grade One Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse last April.
In four races since then, she has fallen, been pulled up, finished last of four and tailed off behind Honeysuckle in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle back at Fairyhouse on her latest start.
However, she has pleased Hanlon of late and the County Carlow handler feels this Listed contest is a good opportunity for her to show her true colours.
“She’s doing well. All roads lead to Sandown at the minute,” he said.
“I just hope the ground doesn’t get any softer. If they got a lot of rain over there we might not run, but at the moment we’re definitely running. She’s pleased me again. After she had that fall I wanted to give her a couple of nice runs.
“I got one into her in a four-horse race and the last day she was outclassed. When you take on Honeysuckle you’re in trouble, so we just gave her a nice run round and she’s back in her own class now.
“The big problem over here is that there are no races to suit her. Over Christmas there wasn’t anything and this race is ideal for her, so we’ll be heading over the sea.”