Unbeaten Honeysuckle will miss the Champion Hurdle to go head-to-head with Benie Des Dieux in a tasty battle for the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle on first day of the Cheltenham Festival
- Honeysuckle will miss Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham Races
- But will go head-to-head with Benie Des Dieux in Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle
- Henry De Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle had been 4-1 for the Champion Hurdle
Unbeaten Honeysuckle will miss Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle to instead go head-to-head with Benie Des Dieux in a tasty battle for the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Henry De Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle had been as short as 4-1 to add the Champion Hurdle to her success in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last month.
Her participation would have given jockey Rachael Blackmore the best chance yet for a female jump jockey to win one of the Festival’s crown jewel races – the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Gold Cup are the other two.
Henry De Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle will miss Tuesday’s Unibet Champion Hurdle
Blackmore will still probably ride in the race with De Bromhead-trained Irish Champion Hurdle runner-up Petite Mouchoir also in the line-up.
The two-and-a-half-mile Mares’ Hurdle is half a mile longer than the Champion Hurdle and Peter Molony, racing manager to Honeysuckle’s owner Kenny Alexander, said that had been a factor in the decision.
Molony added: ‘In our opinion she’s a two-and-a-half-mile mare – that’s her optimum trip.
But will go head-to-head with Benie Des Dieux in Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham
‘I’ve read somewhere that we’re lacking in ambition but if taking on Benie Des Dieux is lacking ambition, I don’t know what ambition is! It will be a great race. Let’s hope everything turns up in one piece.’
Honeysuckle is 6-4 for the Grade One Mares’ Hurdle but in facing Benie Des Dieux, Honeysuckle must take on a fellow mare who has won all her eight completed starts since being bought in France to join the Willie Mullins stable.
Those wins include last season’s French Champion Hurdle. Benie Des Dieux also won the 2018 Mares’ Hurdle and would have won last year’s race but for falling at the last.
Blackmore has never been beaten in seven rides on Honeysuckle, who threw in some slow jumps when winning the Irish Champion, including one at the last hurdle that threatened to cost her victory.
Going to the longer race next week means her jumping should be put under less pressure.
Wednesday is the penultimate declaration stage for the Champion Hurdle. Entries can also be supplemented at a cost of £22,500.