Alan Magee, PA
The remarkable Honeysuckle stretched her unbeaten record to 16 with another imperious display in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.
Henry de Bromhead’s superstar mare has enjoyed another faultless campaign, winning a third Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse before successfully defending her crown in both the Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The eight-year-old was unsurprisingly a short price at to do the same on her return to Co Kildare and ultimately landed odds of 1-5 with the minimum of fuss in the hands of Rachael Blackmore, beating Echoes In Rain by three lengths.
Saint Roi took the six-strong field along for much of the two-mile journey before Honeysuckle moved up to deliver her challenge leaving the back straight.
Just for a moment it looked like she might have a real race on her hands, with Saint Roi still travelling well enough in the lead and his stablemate Echoes In Rain looming large in Honeysuckle’s wing mirrors as they rounded the home turn.
But once straightened up, Blackmore’s mount found another gear to put the race to bed and while she slowed up and edged left jumping the final flight, she picked up again on the run-in and came home with three lengths in hand, much to the delight of the vast majority of those in the packed grandstands.
Echoes In Rain was a clear second, with Grand National and Gold Cup-winning jockey Robbie Power finishing last of the six aboard Teahupoo on his final ride before retirement.
Power received a warm reception from racegoers as he made his way back to the unsaddling area before Honeysuckle sent punters wild after returning to the winner’s enclosure to deserved acclaim.
Blackmore said: “She’s incredibly talented, I’m so lucky to be on her back. We’re all lucky to be part of what she is, she’s a phenomenally talented mare. She always does what she has to do, and that’s an incredible feat in any horse.
“As a jockey you dream of getting on a good horse, that’s what every jockey wants – you can’t achieve on the big days without that. But she takes it to another level – she blows good horses out of the water. I’m very lucky to ride her.
“Henry does some job with her producing her like this every single day. She was brilliant. It’s a good team at home that makes these days so good, and it’s important to have that.
“When we turned in, I did have to ask her for that gear, and she found it and away we went. She just does what she has to. I can always feel when there is something coming because she can sense it too, and she kicks on.
“It (the reception) was magic.”