Irish Champion Hurdle Tips: Back this Elliott raider to chase home Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle is a red-hot favourite to land an Irish Champion Hurdle hat-trick.
Honeysuckle is a red-hot favourite to land an Irish Champion Hurdle hat-trick.

Henry De Bromhead's wondermare Honeysuckle will bid for win number 14 out of 14 on Sunday afternoon, and duly record a sensational third Irish Champion Hurdle on the bounce at Leopardstown on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival. A meagre field of five will go to post for the Grade 1 contest and we take a look at the contest here...

Already a clear odds-on favourite for the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next month, Honeysuckle will look to land the Irish equivalent for the third time this weekend, and if she can produce her best performance on home soil then she looks unstoppable. A real revelation over timber, she rocketed to an emphatic six-and-a-half length victory in the Champion Hurdle last March before going on to win the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

Showing her brilliance and dominance once again on her comeback run in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse earlier this season, where she annihilated Ronald Pump by eight lengths, she will head into the Irish Champion Hurdle looking a real cut above her peers and she will have to underperform to not maintain her 100% record.

A winner over 2m 4f in that Hatton's Grace, the drop back to two miles won't be an issue, as she has swapped between the two distances throughout her career, and if Rachael Blackmore can get her into a rhythm over her fences once again then she can cruise clear in the closing stages and etch another notable Grade 1 success on her glittering CV.

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Gordon Elliott is bidding for a second win in this race having saddled Apple's Jade to victory in 2019, and the Cullentra House handler will unleash the progressive Zanahiyr, who is still open to notable improvement, and he looks to be the main danger to Honeysuckle. A winner of the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown last season, the five-year-old then disappointed a little in the Triumph Hurdle when finishing fourth - despite being sent off the 11/8 favourite for the four-year-old showpiece.

Beaten by Jeff Kidder at the Punchestown Festival on his last start as a juvenile, Zanahiyr made a perfect start to his new campaign by bounding to a comfortable win in the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle at Down Royal. Beaten three lengths by Sharjah in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, Elliott's raider improved significantly last time out in the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown, as he was only beaten a neck by the Willie Mullins-trained star.

So, if he can continue to improve as the season progresses then he can most certainly give Honeysuckle something to think about, and his current odds of 14/1 for the Champion Hurdle could shorten significantly in the aftermath of Sunday's contest. He will need a huge career best to down Honeysuckle here, but he looks the most likely thorn in the side of De Bromhead's charge, and he can chase home the star mare.

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Willie Mullins may have won this race on six occasions, but the master of Closutton has not tasted victory in the event since 2016 when Faugheen bounded to glory, and he will be looking to make it a magnificent seventh victory with Saint Roi and Echoes Of Rain, who both face a stiff test on all form shown to date.

A winner of the 2020 County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, Saint Roi has failed to kick on when venturing out of the handicap sphere, and he was a whopping 21 lengths behind Honeysuckle in this race 12 months ago. Well beaten by stablemate Sharjah and Zanahiyr in the Matheston Hurdle on his first run this term, Saint Roi will falter once again on the big stage, and will struggle to figure.

A Grade 1-winning novice hurdler at the Punchestown Festival last season, Echoes In Rain is another that has failed to kick on, and he was well beaten in both the Morgiana and the Matheson, and is another that will struggle to reverse the form with Zanahiyr, who appears to have all his rivals bar Honeysuckle in his pocket on Sunday.

Coral Cup heroine Heaven Help Us completes the line-up, and she has often shown her best form over longer trips, and was last seen being beaten by Stayers' Hurdle hope Royal Kahala in a Mares' Hurdle event. Paul Hennessy's stable star is likely to be using this as a springboard to the Cheltenham Festival, where she could be seen in a number of races, but the front-running mare will struggle to down some proven top notch performers at the weekend.

2022 Irish Champion Hurdle
Zanahiyr silk

Zanahiyr (EW)

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