Defending Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle will not bid to retain her crown, instead running in the Mares' Hurdle, a race she won in 2020; she has been beaten twice this season, most recently in the Irish Champion Hurdle last weekend by State Man
Tuesday 7 February 2023 09:22, UK
Connections of Honeysuckle have announced the popular nine-year-old will have one final run in the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next month.
Having lost her long unbeaten record first time out this season in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse behind Teahupoo and Klassical Dream, hopes were high she would return to winning ways at Leopardstown last weekend.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore were making bullish noises in the lead up to the Irish Champion Hurdle, a race she had won three times previously.
She was, though, taking on Willie Mullins' new kid on the block, State Man, who despite having only won the County Hurdle last March when Honeysuckle was claiming a second Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, had risen through the ranks and was sent off favourite.
In the end Honeysuckle finished an honourable second, just under five lengths behind the impressive winner, and talk of her retirement circulated.
Owner Kenny Alexander did not make any rash decisions, took 24 hours to take in all the available information and talk to those closest to the mare before deciding she deserved one more run - and a potential clash with two of Nicky Henderson's stars in Marie's Rock and Epatante.
Alexander's racing manager Peter Molony took to Twitter early on Tuesday morning to announce the decision.
He said: "One last hurrah for Honeysuckle! Barring accidents, injury, illness or extremes of ground she will be prepared for another tilt at The Close Brothers Mares Hurdle Gd1 @CheltenhamRaces on Tuesday 14th of March."