One Last Festival Hurrah for Honeysuckle 

Kenny Alexander’s dual Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle (GB) (Sulamani {Ire}) will make her swansong in the G1 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

The 9-year-old was beaten for the first time in 16 starts when tackling the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December, in which she was third. She went on to finish runner-up to State Man (Ire) in last weekend’s Irish Champion Hurdle, a race she had won for the three previous seasons. 

A 12-time Grade 1 victrix, Honeysuckle is also a treble winner at the Cheltenham Festival, having won the last two Champion Hurdles and the Mares’ Hurdle in 2020.

Peter Molony, racing manager to Kenny Alexanxder, announced the news on Tuesday morning.

He told PA Media, “I think after Sunday, on mature reflection, most reasonable people would agree she has taken a step back. She still fought her heart out and when Vauban came to take second off her she put her head down and her ears back and went ‘not on your life’.

“So she still has that competitive spirit, she’s still a racehorse and that’s why we’ve decided to give her one last hurrah. She deserves it and Cheltenham would be a lovely place to bow out.”

He added, “The whole day on Sunday, strangely enough, even though we got beat, was one of the best days we’ve had on a racecourse with Honey. The reception she got, the cheer when Rachael got legged up, the roars as she cantered down to the start–Rachael said when she got down to the start she had a stupid grin on her face from the huge reception they got.

“The public have really taken her to their hearts and it’s wonderful, so Cheltenham is probably the right place for her to finish her career.”

Honeysuckle will retire eventually to Alexander’s New Hall Stud in Scotland, where the owner-breeder is assembling a formidable team of National Hunt mares. The Ayrshire farm was the birthplace of Group 1 winner Donna Blini (GB) (Bertolini), who was bred by Gordon Thom and later found ever greater fame as Japanese Horse of the Year Gentildonna (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}).

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