Connections of Honeysuckle are favouring a crack at the Mares’ Hurdle rather than the Champion Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival after she maintained her unbeaten record with a battling success in the Grade 1 Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Henry De Bromahead’s star mare was forced to dig deeper than ever in the Dublin Racing Festival feature, but showed a tremendous attitude to get the job done. After being sent off the 8/11 favourite, the six-year-old travelled strongly on the heels of leader and stable companion Petit Mouchoir in the hands of regular pilot Rachel Blackmore.

Honeysuckle looked set for an easy success when taking up the running approaching the final flight, but made a mistake which cost her vital ground and momentum. It was therefier to her credit that she then rallied strongly on the rail to get back in front close home and hold off the late challenge of outsider Darver Star by 1/2 a length.

It was the same distance back to the third home Petit Mouchoir, so as the front trio finished so close it’s questionable how strong the form is. However, Honeysuckle showed that she has gits as well as class and is now a perfect seven from seven under rules having also won her sole start in an Irish point.

”We want to what’s best for her”

The success earned Kenny Alexander’s superstar as best-priced 12/1 quote with for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, but his racing manager Peter Molony has since revealed that she is more likely to line-up in the Grade 1 Close Brothers’ Mares’ Hurdle.

He told the Racing Post:

“Nothing is set in stone but we’re still leaning towards the Mares’ Hurdle with Honeysuckle.

“The main reason is that two and a half miles is her optimum trip. She’s top-class over two and a half miles and we want to do what’s best for the mare at Cheltenham.”

Honeysuckle is 15/8 second favourite with William Hill for the Mares’ Hurdle in which she would potentially clash with another superstar in the shape of Willie Mullins’ Benie Des Dieux who heads the betting at 4/5 with Paddy Power.

I personally think Honeysuckle would have a great chance in the Champion Hurdle which this year has a wide-open look to it. It’s awlays nice to see the best taking on the best, whatever their sex, but the Mares’ had given owners an easier option since it was first run in 2008.

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Delta Work deliver in style in Irish Gold Cup

The other big race in a fantastic two days of action at the Dublin Racing Festival saw Delta Work land back-to-back Grade 1 successes when powering home to land the Irish Gold Cup in emphatic fashion.

Having returned to winning ways when getting up close home in a blanket finish to the Savills Chase over the course and distance at Christmas, the Gordon Elliott trained seven-year-old confirmed form with Kemboy and Presenting Percy to clinch a notable big-race double.

Jack Kennedy was happy to keep the Gigginstown House Stud owned Delta Work just off the pace until creeping into contention three from home going well.

Kemboy then took up the running at the second last, but Delta Work covered the move and forged clear on the run-in to beat Willie Mullins’ inmate by a comfortable 1 1/2 lengths. It was an emphatic and impressive display and one which saw bookmakers slash Delta Work for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, March 13.

He is now a best priced 6/1 shot with Paddy Power and if successful will become the first since the Jessica harrington trained Sizing John in 2017 to complete the Gold Cup double.

Elliott dreaming of Gold Cup double

A delighted Elliott said:

“The last couple of seasons he’s improved with races. We missed here last year and went straight to Cheltenham, which might not have been ideal.

“The one thing we have learned about this horse is to put him to sleep and get him popping away. It’s all systems go now for Cheltenham. Our horse is improving the whole time and we can dream about a Gold Cup now.”

Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for Gigginstown, added:

“This has been a lucky race for us. This horse needs racing and improves from race to race. He wears a hood, but he’s settling better now. He jumped well and Jack gave him a super ride.”

Delta Work already has proven form the Cheltenham Festival having won the 2018 running of the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final before finishing a fine staying on third to Santini the Grade 1 RSA Novices’ Chase last year.

Judged on the way in which he got the job done at Leopardstown, I think Delta Work has every chance of enhancing it with victory in chasing’s blue riband contest.

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