Cheltenham Festival: Will Honeysuckle Retire Before Cheltenham Festival or take on the Mares’ Hurdle?
Honeysuckle suffered only her second even defeat on Sunday in the Irish Champion Hurdle – her second loss on the bounce after an incredible run of 16 straight wins. However, the unfortunate recent results means that owner Kenny Alexander has ruled the 9 year old out of the Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle next month. Does this mean that the Mares’ Hurdle be Honeysuckle’s next race?
With the risk of stating the obvious; horses can’t go on winning forever – unless, they are called Frankel. So even though it’s always sad to see a superstar horse, such as Honeysuckle, who has racked up a load of wins, losing a race, it’s inevitable and something that will eventually happen more often than not.
After winning her first 16 races, the Honeysuckle bubble burst at Fairyhouse at the start of December, when third in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, and even though many horse racing fans stuck with her on Sunday as she tried to win the Irish Champion Hurdle for a fourth time, it seems her invisibility powers are no longer after only managing second – beaten 4 3/4 lengths by the younger legs of State Man.
And with two defeats on the bounce, it seems as that first defeat back in December wasn’t just a blip but instead, a sign that age is finally catching up with the 9 year-old Honeysuckle.
Connections Rule Out Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle Defence
Following Sunday’s defeat, her first at Leopardstown in five runs at the Dublin track, connections were quick to rule her out of the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a race she’s won for the last two seasons.
Therefore, a date with the classy Constitution Hill in the 2023 Champion Hurdle would not be fair for her at this stage of her career.
Instead her owner Kenny Alexander was honest enough to say that there’s two options left for Honeysuckle – retirement or a tilt at the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival – an easier option running against her own sex and a prize she won in 2020.
Honeysuckle’s owner – Kenny Alexander told the Racing Post “We’ll definitely not be taking on Constitution Hill, that’s for sure,” was owner emphatic reply when I asked him what was next for his legendary mare.
“I would fear what would happen against Constitution Hill and we’ve no desire to go running around for place money. It’s up to Henry. If he wants to chuck it now, that’s okay. I’ve always said that we have to get her out safe and sound. Maybe the time has come.
“If we go for Constitution Hill, the mare is so brave and Rachael doesn’t muck about – we’d run to win and I’d dread for anything to happen to her now. I don’t think we can beat Constitution Hill. I’m not sure anything can beat Constitution Hill.”
“I would be prepared to go for the Mares’ Hurdle, but let’s talk to Henry and Rachael. I’ll leave it to them – whatever they say we’ll go with. She doesn’t owe us anything. I’d love to win another Mares’ Hurdle with her and go out in a blaze of glory, but I don’t want anything to happen to her now.”
The bookmakers reacted with this news by pushing Honeysuckle out to 20/1 for the 2023 Champion Hurdle, with State Man at 3/1, but shorten her up in the Mares’ Hurdle (Tues, 14th March) to 2/1.
2023 Cheltenham Festival Mares’ Hurdle
Maries Rock 7/2
Brandy Love 4/1
Love Envoi 9/2
Echoes In Rain 11/2