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Five Things We Learned: Honeysuckle blooms at Fairyhouse

Honeysuckle was a brilliant winner of the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Faryhouse
Honeysuckle was a brilliant winner of the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Faryhouse

Honeysuckle showcases her credentials against top opposition 

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Henry De Bromhead’s unbeaten mare. On Sunday, she faced up against some established Grade 1 horses for the first time in her career in the Hatton’s Grace hurdle, but she won in very taking fashion. Although she has already won a Grade 1, you could have considered this her first true test now she’s out of Novice company - with horses such as Apple's Jade, Bacardys and Penhill to overcome – but she didn’t look out of her depth in the slightest and put them all to the sword, running out a nine-length-winner.

She’s now been cut to 2/1 for the Mares Hurdle, but it would be interesting to hear the thoughts of connections on an attempt at the Champion Hurdle, which is arguably a weaker race at this current stage given the fact that none of the market principles have impressed and she’d receive the 7lb Mares allowance. That could be an easier assignment than facing up against Benie Des Dieux over two-and-a-half miles off level weights.

Samcro impressive, despite not finishing

It was a race I was hugely looking forward to. The young pretender Fakir D’oudairies taking on a horse once considered unstoppable - who seems to be in the midst of a career revival – in Samcro. Despite Samcro being the only one that failed to finish, the race was seemingly at his mercy before his landing gear failed two from home and Fakir D’oudairies was left to finish at his own pace.

Obviously, it is impossible in this game to say he would have definitely won, but the way he travelled through the race and moved up to challenge for the lead was extremely eye catching and a horse that had appeared to have lost his way needs to be feared once again. The JLT is his likely target and he is priced at around 6/1, which could prove massive come March.

We saw a new side to Envoi Allen

Well, we sort of did. We saw him dig deep and how he responds to a bit of pressure. His champion bumper performance was similar, but he always looked like he had Blue Sari held there, however at one stage on Sunday I thought it looked like he was going to lose his faultless form line. Abacadabras cleared the second last and looked the more comfortable of the two, eyeballing the brightest star of the Novice division approaching the final obstacle.

Of course, we all know about the engine Envoi Allen possesses so he did quash the challenge as soon as the jumping was done to run out a length-and-three-quarter winner. But it was an intriguing race, it didn’t all go his way and he experienced his first scare, but its credit to his talent that he still managed win rather cosily. The big question, Supreme or Ballymore?

The importance of a well-planned ride

I’m sure every horse racing fan has had the discussion with someone less informed on the sport that goes along the lines of “Why is that Jockey better though? He’s just sitting on the better horse, of course he’d win” You’ve probably used the case of AP McCoy aboard Witicha Lineman at the festival in 2009 and they probably looked back at you, a bit confused. Well next time show them Henry Brooke’s ride on Cornerstone Lad in the Fighting Fifth.

For me, that will likely be the ride of the season. I’d like to think that connections of the 16/1 outsider sat round the table the day before and discussed how on earth their seemingly written off horse could beat a two-time Champion Hurdle winner as well as one of the best English Mares in training. The answer they came up with was force a ridiculous pace, steal a ten-length lead and hope that it’s enough to stop the pack from getting near.

It was a brilliant tactical ride, I have no doubt they wouldn’t have won if they didn’t take this gamble but it’s payed off and some. A big congratulations to Micky Hammond, Henry Brooke and of course Cornerstone Lad on causing a huge upset and bringing home a first Grade 1 for both horse and jockey.

Ladrokes Trophy lost its sparkle?

First things first, huge credit needs to be given to De Rasher Counter in winning this great race and a big congratulations are in order to all connections. However, I couldn’t help being unimpressed by the race. The Ladbrokes Trophy (Formally the Hennessey) has been the subject of some of the greats of the game; One Man, Bobs Worth, Denman, Many Clouds the list goes on.

But I can’t see a horse from that field getting near that sort of level, the same goes for last year’s renewal. It used to produce genuine Gold Cup and Grand National contenders, but I think it’s a long way off that now and as entertaining as it is as a race, it has really lost that star appeal. I’d be interested to see how next years race shapes up, but we would need to see a real superstar line up otherwise it could confirm the decline of a great race.

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