'She’s got a massive heart': Honeysuckle fends off challengers to lift Champion crown

Honeysuckle was forced to work harder than she ever has before to maintain her unbeaten record in the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore being led back after winning for trainer Henry de Bromhead. Photo Healy Racing
Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore being led back after winning for trainer Henry de Bromhead. Photo Healy Racing

Henry de Bromhead’s mare arrived with six wins in as many starts over hurdles, most recently making a seamless transition to open company in winning the two-and-a-half-mile Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.

Dropping back to two miles here, there was plenty of market confidence with Honeysuckle being sent off the 8-11 favourite.

Everything was going according to plan with Rachael Blackmore tracking stablemate Petit Mouchoir into the straight, with nothing else threatening to get into the race.

Honeysuckle jumped the last awkwardly, though, handing the initiative back to Petit Mouchoir before the outsider Darver Star came flying from the rear.

She was game on the rail though, just getting back up to win by half a length from Darver Star with Petit Mouchoir the same distance away in third.

Blackmore said: “She’s got a massive heart and a massive will to do it. Petit Mouchoir ran a cracker and always does over two miles.

“She was really tough and it’s a pleasure to be involved with her. She’s always done everything I’ve asked her to do and I wasn’t too worried about coming back in trip.

“She needed to stay well to win after the last and that’s what she did.

“Mark Phelan (chief executive of PCI Insurance) is my sponsor and has been such a great supporter of mine. It’s great to win his race, the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle.”

De Bromhead said: “She just looked like she got a bit lonely going to the last. She’s so tough and the lady on top of her is so tough. She really battled it out.

“All credit to Petit Mouchoir and Davy Russell, he ran a brilliant race again and Gavin’s (Cromwell) horse looked very good.

“I had my heart in my mouth coming to the line. She probably needed it and our two went at it fairly early.

“Talk about adapting to two miles – she seemed brilliant. I thought she jumped well to be fair, maybe at the second Patrick (Mullins, Sharjah) jumped past her.

“At the second last I’m not sure if Rachael sat on her and Davy got a good jump, or if she made a mistake. I think she was just lonely in front at the last.

“Rachael is brilliant and I always say that we are very lucky to have her. She’s just riding out of her skin and the mare is deadly.”

When asked where she would go from here, De Bromhead added: “We’ll enjoy today. We’ve won the Irish Champion Hurdle and we can discuss all that in time. I’m delighted to get today behind us.”

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