Mark Cranham/INPHO
Cheltenham Festival

Honeysuckle heads 10 chasing Champion Hurdle honours

The eight-year-old is an odds-on shot to retain her title on the opening day, with Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It the next best in the betting.

Honeysuckle will face nine rivals as she defends her Unibet Champion Hurdle crown at the Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.

Henry de Bromhead’s mare is unbeaten in 14 starts under rules, with her 10 Grade One victories including three Irish Champion Hurdles and last year’s success in the Cheltenham feature.

De Bromhead feels her versatility is one of her biggest weapons.

“No matter how the race unfolds, she can cope. Looking at last year’s Champion Hurdle, I’ve never seen her that far out of the race, that was the pace they were going and Rachael (Blackmore) was happy to do that,” he told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday.

“She just seems to be so good and have such a will to win and up to now there’s no set tactics that Rachael has to work with, just goes with how she feels she is in the race and I suppose that is a reflection of how good she is.

“Obviously Appreciate It is very good, it sounds like they are happy with Epatante and Teahupoo has been very impressive, but there were plenty like that last year as well. I haven’t gone in depth into the ratings, but I’d say it’s a similar race to last year.

“In her last few runs she hasn’t had to go all out so we don’t really know, she has to be asked a question and then we’ll see.”

henry-de-bromhead-with-honeysuckle-and-minella-indo Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The eight-year-old is an odds-on shot to retain her title on the opening day, with Willie Mullins’ Appreciate It the next best in the betting at 7-2.

He will be having his first start since winning last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at this fixture and will be joined by stablemate Saint Roi.

Gordon Elliott is double-handed with Zanahiyr and Teahupoo.

The first-named has to find six and a half lengths with Honeysuckle on their Irish Champion Hurdle form while Teahupoo is taking a leap in class having won his last three starts at Grade Two and Three level.

Epatante won the Champion Hurdle in 2020 for Nicky Henderson and she is firing on all cylinders again this term, having dead-heated in the Fighting Fifth on her seasonal bow before adding Christmas Hurdle success last time out. She finished third in the Champion Hurdle last season.

Adagio represents David Pipe while Not So Sleepy, who shared Fighting Fifth glory with Epatante, runs for Hughie Morrison.

Tommy’s Oscar bids to complete his dramatic rise through the ranks for Ann Hamilton with Champion Hurdle success with the field completed by Tom Lacey’s Glory And Fortune, who finished second to Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle.

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