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Honeysuckle made to work for Irish Champion Hurdle but stays on under Rachael Blackmore to keep unbeaten record


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Jockey Rachael Blackmore kisses the trophy after Honeysuckle won the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle during day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photo credit: PA Wire

Jockey Rachael Blackmore kisses the trophy after Honeysuckle won the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle during day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photo credit: PA Wire

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Jockey Rachael Blackmore kisses the trophy after Honeysuckle won the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle during day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse. Photo credit: PA Wire

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

Trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Rachael Blackmore – who were completing a Grade 1 double on the card after winning the ERSG Arkle Novice Chase with Notebook – 8-11 favourite Honeysuckle looked set for a commanding victory after quickening away from Petit Mouchoir, but did not jump the last cleanly.

That allowed her rival and stablemate to regain the advantage, but the mare, who races for gambling giant GVC's supremo Kenny Alexander, picked up again, only for 20-1 chance Darver Star to rally and threaten to spoil the party.

De Bromhead said: "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.

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1 February 2020; Honeysuckle, with Rachael Blackmore up, jumps the last on their way to winning the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle during Day One of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

1 February 2020; Honeysuckle, with Rachael Blackmore up, jumps the last on their way to winning the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle during Day One of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

1 February 2020; Honeysuckle, with Rachael Blackmore up, jumps the last on their way to winning the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle during Day One of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

A daughter of Sulamani, Honeysuckle emerged as a smart novice hurdler last season, winning four times, including a Grade 1 for mares at Fairyhouse.

She returned to that venue to win easily in November and also impressed with her success in the track's Hatton's Grace Hurdle, although those victories were over 2m4f.

Dropping back to 2m and trying a left-handed circuit for the first time under rules, she had a few things to prove, but moved stylishly through the prestigious event – the €200,000 centrepiece on the first day of the Dublin Racing Festival.

It was a first win in the race for Blackmore, but a second for De Bromhead after Petit Mouchoir struck in 2017.

Online Editors