Honeysuckle deserves to be Champion Hurdle favourite
Honeysuckle has joined Epatante at the head of the betting for the Champion Hurdle but should arguably be outright favourite after impressing in the Irish Champion Hurdle on Saturday.
Honeysuckle won the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival after winning the Irish Champion Hurdle last season but connections will be going for the Champion Hurdle this time after she ran right up to her best at Leopardstown. Honeysuckle extended her unbeaten record under Rules to 10 with a hugely impressive 10-length success, looking in full control from a long way out.
She has a Timeform rating 3lb higher than last year’s Champion Hurdle winner Epatante, who had been a deserving favourite in light of the paucity of credible rivals. However, Honeysuckle now looms large and is the one to beat.
Mullins’ Kilcruit looks a star
There were plenty of sparkling performances posted at the Dublin Racing Festival, though no horse won by a wider margin than Kilcruit, who slammed his rivals by 12 lengths in the Future Stars Bumper on Saturday. That race was well named as Kilcruit looked very special at Leopardstown, winning with ease rarely seen at any level, never mind in a Grade 2 featuring most of Ireland’s best bumper horses.
The exciting Sir Gerhard was a notable absentee at Leopardstown, though it’s unlikely he would have coped with Kilcruit, who put up one of the best performances seen in the division in recent years. He achieved a Timeform rating of 124p and that has been bettered by only Envoi Allen (125), Tornado Flyer (125) and Yorkhill (125) in bumpers in the last five seasons.
Kilcruit was also an impressive winner on his previous start for Willie Mullins and will take plenty of beating at in the Cheltenham Festival bumper.
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A golden crop of novice chasers
Events at the Dublin Racing Festival offered further confirmation that this is a golden crop of novice chasers.
We are in an exciting era for the sport. Shishkin (165P) still sits at the top of the division based on the effort he produced in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton but his task in the Sporting Life Arkle will not be a straightforward one as Energumene (163p) has created a fantastic impression over fences for Willie Mullins and raised his game another notch with a 10-length win in the Irish Arkle.
Energumene’s stablemate Monkfish (164p) produced a spectacular performance of his own in the Flogas Novice Chase, putting in a foot-perfect round of jumping and sauntering 11 lengths clear of old adversary Latest Exhibition.
He is now a short-priced favourite for the Festival Novices’ Chase and will be tough to beat on Sunday’s showing. Monkfish’s owners, Rich and Susannah Ricci, also have another high-class prospect in Royale Pagaille (163p), while Envoi Allen (160P) is regarded by many as the most exciting of the lot.
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