Hatton's Grace Hurdle Tips: Bacardys to cause Fairyhouse shock

Hatton's Grace Hurdle Tips: Can Bacardys topple Honeysuckle at Fairyhouse?
Hatton's Grace Hurdle Tips: Can Bacardys topple Honeysuckle at Fairyhouse?

Steve Chambers previews Sunday's Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, which will see star mare Honeysuckle line up against some smart rivals in an enthralling Grade 1 contest...

Henry De Bromhead's classy mare Honeysuckle will make her hotly-anticipated reappearance on Sunday, when she lines up as a red-hot favourite for the Grade 1 Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse. Eight wins from eight career outings under Rules has catapulted the six-year-old into the upper echelons of the hurdling division, and the class act will endeavour to maintain her 100% record on Sunday when she takes on a decent field in the Irish showpiece.

An odds-on favourite for Sunday's contest, at the time of writing, Honeysuckle was last seen bounding to a hugely impressive victory over Benie Des Dieux in the Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and she will want to kick off the new season in similar fashion and enhance her unblemished record.

With four wins out of four at Fairyhouse, Honeysuckle will be the one setting the standard, and she heads into the contest as the reigning champion, as she sauntered to a mightily dominant nine-length success in the 2019 running of the event, where she beat the classy duo of Bacardys and Apple's Jade. The former of that duo will line up once again and will be looking to reverse that form, but is available at double-figured odds, so is surprisingly unfancied by the bookmakers.

One crumb of comfort for those punters looking to take on Honeysuckle is the fact that she had already had a run before lining up in this event 12 months ago, so was certainly race fit for this contest, but this year's renewal will see her make her first start of the campaign. While she has been victorious first time out in the last two seasons, those outings haven't been at Grade 1 level, so it's certainly going to test her ability when facing classy rivals at the highest level at the weekend. But, she is the class act of the race, and being in receipt of weight from her male rivals she is the most likely winner, but could it be worth taking her on with a more attractive valued play?

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Gordon Elliott saddled Apple's Jade to a magnificent hat-trick in this race between 2016 and 2018 and the top Irish handler will unleash a dual-pronged attack at this year's renewal, with Fury Road and Cracking Smart flying the flag for the Cullentra House Stables. While the latter showed some ability when fourth in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham in March, he was a faller in his first start this season in the Lismullen Hurdle, and heads into this contest as the outsider of the field, and he will need to improve immeasurably to land a significant blow.

On the contrary, Fury Road is a horse on the upgrade, and after a decent novice hurdling campaign last season, the six-year-old will look to throw his hat into the Stayers' Hurdle ring this season, a race he is 16/1 for at the time of writing. He is currently jostling for the second favourite spot for Sunday's assignment and is one of the more intriguing contenders. Having finished third in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in March, Fury Road kicked off this season with a comfortable success in a Grade 2 contest at Punchestown, and heads to Fairyhouse in red-hot form. However, while there's more improvement expected, he is more like to shine on the biggest stage over three miles, and Sunday's distance of 2m 4f could prove too short for him, and he will ultimately falter to some quicker rivals.

Another contender that could fall into that same bracket of lacking that bit of dash is the Matthew Smith-trained Ronald Pump, who mixed chasing and hurdling last season, but showed a real high level of form when chasing home Lisnagar Oscar in the Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. That second placed finish was a career best for the seven-year-old, but he made a disappointing start to this season as like the aforementioned Cracking Smart he was a faller in the Lismullen Hurdle. He was beaten that day when coming down late on, but he has shown his better form over three miles, as he showed when winning a valuable Fairyhouse handicap hurdle last year, so while he could prove to be a decent stayer this season, this contest is above his capabilities.

Willie Mullins has only tasted victory twice in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle (Hurricane Fly, 2010 & Arctic Fire, 2015), but the master of Closutton will look to record a third victory when he saddled Bacardys, who finished a gallant runner-up in this race 12 months ago. Another contender that put up a bold effort in the Stayers' Hurdle, as he finished third, Bacardys has often struggled to see out his races over three miles, so the drop back to 2m 4f should see him in a better light. 

His last success came over that distance last season, as he defeated Apple's Jade in the Lismullen Hurdle, which is top notch form, and a repeat of that effort would see him go close. That was his first start of the season, so it shows that he can deliver goods after a lengthy lay-off and he has to be of interest on Sunday. He used that Lismullen Hurdle success as a springboard to a second placed finish in this race last season, but was well beaten by Honeysuckle. It will be a tough ask for him to reverse that form, but at double-figured odds he is certainly worth taking a chance on, and he is certainly the value play here, while it could be worth having a speculative wager on him getting his head in front.

Noel Meade's Beacon Edge adds more depth to the race and lines up on the back of a brace of wins this season at Downpatrick and Galway, and he will be making a huge step up in grade here. His last success in Grade 3 company shows he can perform at a decent level, but this could come a little early in his career, while for the Jessica Harrington-trained Supasundae, who completes the line-up, this comes at the latter stages of his career, as the former Grade 1 winner has failed to show his best in recent runs, and can be discounted.

Selection:

Hatton's Grace Hurdle, Fairyhouse, Sunday 29h November - back Bacardys (each way) at 11/1

Hatton's Grace Hurdle
Bacardys silk

Bacardys (EW)

lost
2021 Cheltenham Festival
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