2020 Irish Champion Hurdle preview: Honeysuckle can continue unbeaten run at Leopardstown

14th September 2021

2020 Irish Champion Hurdle preview from Leopardstown includes Honeysuckle

The feature race at Leopardstown on Saturday is the 2m Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle (15:10) and unbeaten mare Honeysuckle is fancied to continue her streak.

Trained by Henry De Bromhead, the six-year-old daughter of Sulamani is seven races undefeated, including an Irish point.

After bolting up by 15 lengths over Annie Mc at Dromahane, Honeysuckle then made a winning debut under Rules.

That was the first of five career victories at Fairyhouse with a 12 lengths romp in maiden hurdle company.

Honeysuckle followed-up when dropping back down in trip to this distance to land a Listed contest at Thurles.

A 2m race was no problem for her as she made all and then took a quarter-mile step back up in her stride.

After scoring in the Grade 3 Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, Honeysuckle triumphed at the highest level there during the Easter Festival.

This Grade 1 victory was compensation for her missing Cheltenham with De Bromhead unhappy with her work at home. Honeysuckle had Dawn Run winner Eglantine Du Seuil well-beaten in third.

She was a serious hurdles prospect for connections this term and returned to action with a facile 11 lengths success in a minor event at her happy hunting ground.

That put Honeysuckle spot on for a crack at the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace in December.

Fairyhouse specialist fancied to translate form to Leopardstown

After chasing the leaders, she improved to take things up two out and only needed driving out for a nine-length victory over previous Grade 2 scorer Bacardys.

Honeysuckle had the triple Hatton’s Grace heroine Apple’s Jade, who won her next start at the highest level, a further four lengths behind in third.

It confirmed all the promise of her novice hurdle campaign. The speed shown by Honeysuckle in putting races like that to bed suggests going back down in trip here is no problem.

Rachael Blackmore also gets a terrific tune out of her with the jockey operating at a strike rate of just less than 20 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing.

Honeysuckle has an official rating of 158, but gets a 7lb sex allowance from the entire Irish Champion Hurdle field.

Factoring that in, she comes out 3lb and upwards clear of her nine rivals on adjusted figures. De Bromhead is also having a fine season with his runners.

Taking all that into account, Honeysuckle looks the one to beat at 6/4 with Ladbrokes here. It would be no surprise to see her follow-up on her Fairyhouse exploits of last year at Leopardstown.

Sharjah the pick of Mullins’ Irish Champion Hurdle quartet

Nobody has trained more winners of this since it was first run in 1950 than Willie Mullins. He has saddled two horses to six Irish Champion Hurdle victories.

Four Mullins mounts are looking to follow in the hoofprints of Hurricane Fly and Faugheen. Sharjah appreciates a sounder surface to race on, so he looks the pick of the Closutton quartet this year.

Owned by Rich and Susannah Ricci, the seven-year-old Doctor Dino gelding has won Grade 1s in consecutive seasons at the Christmas Festival over course and distance.

Sharjah also landed the 2018 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown when he scalped Faugheen.

At this venue and trip, he has the beating of re-opposing pair Petit Mouchoir and Supasundae on past form.

When winning the 2m Grade 1 over Christmas, Sharjah prevailed on both occasions when held-up and produced to lead before the final flight.

That is clearly the best way of riding him, but whether he can afford to let Honeysuckle have her own way in a more prominent position remains to be seen.

Sharjah is still feared most at 2/1 with Betfred in the Irish Champion Hurdle because of his recent record here.

Klassical Dream has disappointed in both his starts in open company. Last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero had the world at his feet, but doesn’t appeal on this occasion despite odds of 11/2 with Betway for this.

Saglawy is the youngest of Mullins’ four engaged aged six, but has plenty to find on official figures.

Aramon, meanwhile, showed early promise as a novice hurdler last term when winning two Grade 1s but needs good ground.

He also has 30 lengths to find on Sharjah on Matheson Hurdle form from last month. That’s why Aramon is a big price here.

Petit Mouchoir and Supasundae ones to consider each-way

Aforementioned duo Petit Mouchoir and Supasundae have both won the Irish Champion Hurdle before.

The former is trained by De Bromhead for Gigginstown House Stud and ran some fine races in defeat this season.

Petit Mouchoir has finished runner-up to Saldier and Sharjah in the Morgiana and Matheson after shaping as if needing his return to action at Tipperary.

On both occasions, the nine-year-old grey finished in front of Klassical Dream. It doesn’t make sense that Petit Mouchoir is available at bigger odds on his last two runs.

The son of Al Namix is overpriced on that basis at 20/1 with Boylesports and, although Klassical Dream has scope for more improvement, he hasn’t got the better of this horse yet.

Supasundae is the oldest in the Irish Champion Hurdle line-up at 10, but only Sharjah and Klassical Dream have higher official ratings.

Trained by Jessica Harrington, this Galileo gelding usually needs his first run but has been very consistent at placing in Grade 1s.

Since landing the 2017 Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, Supasundae has won or placed in 12 of his 13 subsequent outings at the highest level.

He has three Grade 1 victories to his name, including in this two years ago. Supasundae has made the frame in 17 of 22 career hurdles outings.

A versatile and largely reliable horse, he cannot be totally discounted despite odds of 20/1 with Betfair here.

British raider Monsieur Lecoq may be biting off more than he can chew by taking up his Irish Champion Hurdle entry, meanwhile.

Darver Star and Ballycaines have the most to find with the latter a rank outsider.

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