Honeysuckle to defend Unibet Champion Hurdle crown on first day of Cheltenham

Henry de Bromhead’s star claimed third Irish Champion Hurdle victory at Leopardstown

Honeysuckle will face a maximum of nine rivals as she tries to defend her Unibet Champion Hurdle crown on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Henry de Bromhead’s star is unbeaten in 14 career starts and was last seen when claiming a third Irish Champion Hurdle victory at Leopardstown last month.

She ran out a six-and-a-half-length winner under Rachael Blackmore at Cheltenham last year and is skinny odds to follow up.

Next best in the betting is the Willie Mullins-trained Appreciate It, who will be having his first start since lifting the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on this card last year.


The eight-year-old was a 24-length victor that day and he could be joined in the line up by stablemate Saint Roi, who was behind Honeysuckle at Leopardstown last time.

Gordon Elliott’s pair of Teahupoo and Zanahiyr complete the Irish challenge, with the latter needing to find six and a half lengths with Honeysuckle on Irish Champion Hurdle form.

Epatante leads the home team for Nicky Henderson, with the 2020 Champion Hurdle victor having returned to form this term.

She was only third behind Honeysuckle at Cheltenham last year, but arrives this season on the back of a shared Fighting Fifth victory and outright success in the Christmas Hurdle.

Epatante dead-heated with Hughie Morrison’s Not So Sleepy at Newcastle and he also features in the confirmations along with Christmas Hurdle runner-up Glory And Fortune from Tom Lacey’s yard.

The 10 possibles are completed by Tommy’s Oscar, who will represent Ann Hamilton after winning his last four starts, including Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial and the David Pipe-trained Adagio.

Monmiral, My Mate Mozzie, Tritonic and Quilixios were the four not confirmed. – PA