If you thought Honeysuckle’s victory at Cheltenham last year was just a flash in the pan you are sorely mistaken. There was a lot of hype around the Henry de Bromhead-trained eight-year-old heading into last year’s Festival, with the diminutive mare garnering a lot of attention. But in the 12 months since, she has simply skyrocketed to new success, maintaining a 100% record along the way.
Much was made of the ‘Cheltenham roar’ and the power of magic and destiny over the Festival’s four days. After all, this was the first time since 2020 that crowds have been able to attend. There was something strange about last year with the absence of spectators, that eery silence of empty stands as horses crashed through finishing lines to a muted applause. Just from the first day back at Prestbury Park though, normality looks to have resumed, and you could almost say that atmosphere was amped up a few notches after the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed last year’s entertainment. Cheltenham was back, and Honeysuckle really burst into life.
It might be a bit reactionary, premature even, but Honeysuckle is perhaps one of the best we’ve seen at Cheltenham. Heading into the Champion Hurdle, and with Rachael Blackmore aboard, keen to retain the Top Jockey award she picked up in Gloucestershire last year, the pair were clear favourites in the horse racing betting although the race was certainly not a foregone conclusion. There were a plethora of previous Grade One winners inducing the likes of Epante and Zanahiyr which set up an exciting encounter for the 15:30 on day one.
When it comes to Cheltenham the form guide gets tossed out the window, although just judging on her already impressive career, De Bromhead would have had no doubts the prize money was coming back to County Waterford. The Irishman would have had Honeysuckle as his clear banker, and while he may have less firepower in his arsenal than Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot, this was just the start he would have wanted. With a win at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Hurdle, and a dominant performance at Fairyhouse to end last year, all Honeysuckle had to do was perform on the big day — that’s exactly what happened.
“If all the good will and good lucks that came my way could win you a race she would have won by a furlong!” De Bromhead said. “Most people here were willing her to win. The support we get with her is just mental!”
Blackmore put in a fantastic shift as well, and was praised heavily by the Irishman. “Rachael is brilliant. She had so much horse underneath her at the second-last, they are just a dream team. She was sublime and I can’t believe it. She is just amazing and we are so lucky to have her.”
The victory at Cheltenham made it 15 career wins out of 15 for Honeysuckle, and realistically it’s difficult to see someone stopping her anytime soon. Any hopes of an outside win were quickly put to bed and the mare looks like a Festival stalwart for years to come.