Irish Champion Hurdle 2022 Entries: Honeysuckle tops a field of six for Leopardstown showpiece
Reigning Champion Hurdle heroine Honeysuckle will go in search of a third win in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday, and the unbeaten Henry De Bromhead-trained mare will face a maximum of five rivals on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival...
A staggering 13 wins from 13 starts has rocketed Honeysuckle to the summit of the National Hunt world, and the starlet will bid for a hat-trick of Irish Champion Hurdle crowns this weekend and she is set to be sent off a red-hot odds-on favourite for the Grade 1 contest on Sunday afternoon. A runaway winner of the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last March, Honeysuckle is already a short-priced favourite for that blue riband event on March 15, and De Bromhead will be hoping that his legendary mare can cement her place at the head of the Champion Hurdle betting by winning the Irish equivalent this weekend.
A half-a-length winner in 2020 of the Irish Champion Hurdle, Honeysuckle produced a mightily-impressive performance in last year's renewal, as she sauntered to a 10-length victory in the Leopardstown contest. She kicked off her new campaign with a facile eight-length victory over Ronald Pump in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, and a repeat of that effort would see her extremely tough to beat in a fascinating renewal of the Irish Champion Hurdle on the second day of the Dublin Racing Festival.
Willie Mullins will go in search of a record-breaking seventh victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle, and he could saddle a three-pronged attack, as he tries to down Honeysuckle, and spearheading the Closutton team will be current Champion Hurdle second favourite Appreciate It, who is second in at 4/1 behind 4/11 jolly Honeysuckle for Sunday's event. Unbeaten over hurdles himself, Appreciate It was a superb winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at last season's Cheltenham Festival, but having been set for a campaign over fences this season, the Mullins team opted to remain over the smaller obstacles and a crack at Honeysuckle will set up a thrilling clash. Yet to be seen since that win in the Supreme, it's going to be a tough ask to down Honeysuckle on his comeback run, but he's shown he can perform to a high level, so has to be respected.
A well-beaten fourth in this race 12 months ago, Saint Roi will have another crack for the Mullins team, but failed to land a significant blow in the Matheson Hurdle last time out when third behind stablemate Sharjah, so he faces a tough task, as does Echoes In Rain, who was fourth in the aforementioned Matheson, and he's as big as 25/1 here.
Gordon Elliott trained Apple's Jade to glory in this race back in 2019 and he unleashes Zanahiyr, who has run decent races this term when second to Sharjah in the Morgiana Hurdle and Matheson Hurdle, but last season's Triumph Hurdle fourth will need a career best to topple Honeysuckle here.
Completing the sextet is the Paul Hennessy-trained Heaven Help Us, who was a fine winner of the Coral Cup at last season's Cheltenham Festival, but the 66/1 chance for this event was last seen finishing behind Royal Kahala over 2m 4f in a Mares' Hurdle last time out, and he could find this level a bit beyond him.