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2021 REVIEWS: Champion Hurdle | Honeysuckle storms to second Festival glory

Honeysuckle’s first tilt at the Champion Hurdle was a successful one as she lifted the opening day feature under Rachael Blackmore

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Rachael Blackmore riding Honeysuckle clear the last to win The Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy during day one of the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. Picture date: Tuesday March 16, 2021.

Honeysuckle glided to her 11th career success with a bloodless win in the 2021 Unibet Champion Hurdle to secure her second Cheltenham Festival success under would-be Rachael Blackmore.

WATCH: HONEYSUCKLE ISN’T FOR CATCHING IN THE CHAMPION HURDLE [CREDIT: RACING TV]

Henry de Bromhead’s mare arrived at Prestbury Park’s behind-closed-doors showpiece with her unbeaten record intact, but perhaps facing her toughest test to date on paper in the Tuesday Grade 1.

Defending champion Epatante was in contention to retain her crown, with that season’s Matheson Hurdle victor Sharjah also entering the frame.

Epatante wins the 2020 Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival
Epatante won the 2020 Champion Hurdle for Nicky Henderson and JP McManus

Britain’s charge was led by Goshen, who was unfortunate not to win the Triumph the season before, clattering the final flight but getting back to his best form in the Kingwell for his preparation run.

But in reality, it was as convincing a success as the daughter of Sulamani has produced, putting a distance of six-and-a-half lengths between herself and second place, in a performance that would kickstart a remarkable week for the yard.

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain - March 16, 2021 Rachael Blackmore riding Honeysuckle before winning the 3.05 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy Pool via REUTERS/Michael Steele
Rachael Blackmore riding Honeysuckle before winning the 3.05 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy

She would go onto record a further top-level honour at Punchestown a month later and is a short-priced favourite to win this race once again next month after Fairyhouse and Leopardstown glory in November and February, respectively.

Standing in her way this time around, though, could be last year’s Supreme hero Appreciate It, who looks set to dethrone the 8-year-old without having a warm-up outing.

2DYP23A Paul Townend riding Appreciate It after winning the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown Racecourse, Dublin.
Can Appreciate It give Honeysuckle her first career beating?

Willie Mullins told Racing TV: “It’s not something I’m worried about [preparation run]. I made the decision ages ago and the closer we’ve got, the happier I am that we didn’t have a run.”

“It’s a big challenge for any horse to take on Honeysuckle.

“She races anywhere Rachael puts her and there doesn’t look to be much in the British Isles that can beat her, anyhow.”

Dominic Chapman is senior content writer at Low6 with a passion for horse racing. He provides a NAP and NB every day throughout the week on selected National Hunt and Flat cards in both Britain and Ireland. Additionally, he hosts the Paddock Picks Podcast with former Welsh Grand National-winning pilot, Charlie Poste - the pair interviewing and discussing current racing topics with a special guest every week.