Honeysuckle out to complete Champion double
Honeysuckle has simply gone from strength to strength and has already won seven Grade Ones.
Her latest triumph at the top level came at the Cheltenham Festival last month when she lifted the biggest prize of them all, the Champion Hurdle.
Success on Friday would be a fitting way to cap her remarkable campaign.
Honeysuckle has never run at Punchestown – but it is where she was sold for €110,000 three years ago, just days after winning a point-to-point. She went to be trained by De Bromhead – and the rest is history.
“Every Sunday morning she reminds me how good she could be over fences as she just starts popping away and she does jump them really well,” he said.
“She’s done that all her life, so we don’t really think about it, and to win at Punchestown would be brilliant. It’s where we started the journey.”
De Bromhead was thrilled by her success at Cheltenham.
“She came off the bridle a little coming down the hill, but once she came upsides it was nice to watch,” he added.
“I was surprised she was that far back, but obviously it worked out – Rachael (Blackmore) was brilliant on her. They’re a great combination.
She's so good over hurdles you wonder if you can visualise her in a mares' beginners' chase somewhere
“She seems good. This is the first time she has run back after travelling, so that’s different. But she seems really well, and we’re happy.
“We’ll see about chasing – it’s something to discuss in the summer. She’s so good over hurdles you wonder if you can visualise her in a mares’ beginners’ chase somewhere.”
Blackmore and Honeysuckle have been an invincible partnership for the past three seasons.
“I love riding her, but that goes without saying,” the Grand National-winning jockey told BetVictor.
“She was incredible in Cheltenham, and seems to be improving all the time.
“She seems to have come out of Cheltenham really well. She didn’t go to Punchestown last year, but seems so well this year we’re hoping to keep it going.
“I think her performances this year show she’s improving. From the Irish Champion to Cheltenham, she’s improved with every run – and I’m just very lucky to have her.”
De Bromhead boosts his challenge with Champion Hurdle fourth Aspire Tower and Jason The Militant accompanying their illustrious stablemate.
“Aspire Tower will take her on again,” added the County Waterford handler.
“He’s in great form and came out of Cheltenham well, but his jumping let him down a bit there.
“Jason The Militant was a bit unfortunate (to unseat) at Aintree, but he seems in mighty form.
“It was frustrating. But he came back safe and sound, and we can’t complain too much.”
Sharjah, runner-up to Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle, takes the mighty mare on again and is Willie Mullins’ only representative in the race.
“Sharjah ran a fantastic race in Cheltenham,” said the champion trainer.
“I don’t think he could have improved much more.”
Epatante was only third in the defence of her Cheltenham crown. But connections are pleased with the Nicky Henderson-trained mare as she has another crack at Honeysuckle. It is also her first race in Ireland.
“It’s a great race, and Honeysuckle is going to be very hard to beat,” said Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus.
“Nicky’s very happy with her, but he was happy with her going to Cheltenham as well. She has a bit to do to reverse the placings – Honeysuckle is very good and she is going to take a lot of beating.
“We just hope she runs a big race.”