Honeysuckle brought the house down at Cheltenham as she took her unbeaten tally to 15 with another compelling performance in the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Successful behind closed doors 12 months ago, the mare trained by Henry of Bromhead gave the large crowd something to cheer about as she climbed the hill to join the elite hand of double winners in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.
Appreciate It, making his first run since winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on this day last year, raced Not So Sleepy for company until Honeysuckle moved on and jumped to forward on the penultimate flight.
The 8/11 favorite set sail for home and although challenged by Epatante (16/1), Nicky Henderson’s 2020 winner, she was too good and went on to score by three and a half lengths. Zanahiyr (28/1) was a length away in third place.
“It’s ecstasy,” De Bromhead said. “I was hoping she would be well received and that’s amazing for her.
“Rachael is brilliant. It’s just a dream.
“I put myself under pressure and you want to compete in those places, so to start again is just amazing.”
De Bromhead admitted he felt more pressure this year ahead of Honeysuckle’s title defense.
He added: “I did it (feel the pressure a bit more), with the crowd and the buildup, so it’s just amazing. The dream result was for her to win with the crowd here for the match. cheering her and Rachael on – it’s amazing and more than they deserve.”
Blackmore – who made history last year by becoming the first woman to win the Champion Hurdle – said: “It’s just amazing. Walking in front of the pit with everyone is just a place so special.
“I’m so lucky to be winners here and on this mare. It’s classy to have Kenny [Alexander, Honeysuckle’s owner] here too, he missed it last year.
“She’s just amazing. She kind of decides in a race when she’s happy to go on, I haven’t stopped her from doing that yet.
“She’s just an amazing mare. Her work at home is also amazing, Henry has a great team of staff and they deserve all the credit for that as well.”