Honeysuckle and Tipperary jockey Rachael Blackmore lay down a marker for Cheltenham

Irish Champion Hurdle crown retained in some style

Eamonn Wynne

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Eamonn Wynne

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ewynne@nationalist.ie

Rachael Blackmore

Jockey Rachael Blackmore was praised by trainer Henry de Bromhead for her role in Honeysuckle's successful defence of her Irish Champion Hurdle crown at Leopardstown

Killenaule jockey Rachael Blackmore steered Honeysuckle to an impressive victory in the Grade One Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown this afternoon.

After initially tracking the pacesetting pair of Petit Mouchoir and Saint Roi, the seven-year-old was allowed to stride to the front at the end of the back straight.

And once they turned for home, Blackmore and Honeysuckle soon turned the race into a procession to score a ten-lengths victory, racing clear of Abacadabras and third-placed Sharjah in third.

Honeysuckle's defence of her Irish Champion Hurdle crown on the first day of the Dublin Racing Festival means she has now won all ten of her races, and is vying with Epatante for the favourite’s tag at the head of the betting for next month's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

"That was brilliant, she was brilliant. It was what we hoped she'd do and she did it," trainer Henry de Bromhead stated afterwards.

"Rachael was brilliant on her and she’s just class.

"I’m very lucky to have Rachael and I’ve said it all before. She’s just brilliant to have on the team."

The trainer indicated that Honeysuckle will aim for the Champion Hurdle instead of a tilt at the Mares Hurdle in Cheltenham, although this has yet to be confirmed.

For more sport see Thurles Sarsfields are the early favourites to win the Tipperary county senior hurling championship