The fanfare which greeted the ‘people’s champion’ Danoli after his epic 1997 Hennessy Gold Cup win may never be equalled but success for Honeysuckle at the same venue tomorrow would go some way to rivalling it.
The mighty mare was 16 from 16 on the track before her first reversal in the Hatton’s Grace and while she may not have been at her brilliant best behind Teahupoo, she was anything but disgraced when a close third.
That leaves optimism high that a fourth victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle (3.10) could still be on the cards for Henry de Bromhead’s charge and a mouth-watering renewal awaits.
In her way stand a pair of runners from Willie Mullins with State Man cementing his Champion Hurdle credentials when taking the Matheson Hurdle here at Christmas, where Vauban was not far behind in second.
State Man is one of the only perceived hopes that could take down Constitution Hill at Cheltenham and the six-year-old must account for his two main rivals with a swagger if that is still to be deemed possible.
Vauban, last year’s Triumph Hurdle hero, made a pleasing reappearance at the Foxrock track but a massive leap forward is needed and it looks to be between State Man and Honeysuckle.
Paul Townend and Rachael Blackmore will play a game of cat and mouse and while State Man is thoroughly respected, there may just be another big kick left in the wonderful Honeysuckle.
If there isn’t, retirement is likely to beckon for the nine-year-old but that may be put on hold and the dual Champion Hurdle heroine can get the job done again to raise the roof under Blackmore.
Mullins has five of the six runners in the Grade One Ladbrokes Novice Chase (1.40) but amazingly, he doesn’t house the current favourite with Drinmore winner Mighty Potter providing the resistance for Gordon Elliott.
It would be a fair achievement were the six-year-old to fend off a Mullins battalion – led by Gaillard Du Mesnil (this trip could be a tad short of his optimum) and James Du Berlais – but the six-year-old has the tools to do so.
Davy Russell’s mount had four-and-a-half lengths to spare from Gaillard Du Mesnil last time out and he can land a fourth success at the highest level.
Blue Lord parachuted his way into the Champion Chase picture with a dominant Grade One victory here over Christmas and Mullins’ eight-year-old is expected to coast home alone in the Grade One Ladbrokes Dublin Chase (2.10) under Townend. Sceau Royal, a rare UK raider at this meeting, races in the same double green colours for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede but he is unlikely to trouble Blue Lord as he makes another statement.
The Cotswolds is also firmly on the agenda of Facile Vega and Mullins’ superstar can dispose of the Joseph O’Brien-trained High Definition to land the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle (3.40).
DAY TWO PICKS
1.10: Historique Reconce
1.40: Mighty Potter
2.10: Blue Lord
2.40: Foxy Jacks (e/w)
3.40: Facile Vega
4.10: Gaelic Warrior
4.40: Lily Du Berlais