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Since the non runner money back concession Honeysuckle and Appreciate It have been all the rage for hurdling’s blue riband. The former’s third Irish Champion Hurdle victory at Leopardstown on Sunday was an emotional affair as a big crowd saluted one of the greatest race mares of all time and her partner Rachael Blackmore.
Honeysuckle’s easy six and a half length victory from Zanahiyr solidified her credentials as one of, if not the banker of the Cheltenham Festival with many punters now believing only injury can stop her from taking a second Champion Hurdle in succession and 15th win over timber in a row.
It will obviously take a mighty performance to dethrone Honeysuckle and compatriot Appreciate It has been the one backed to do it. Champion trainer Willie Mullins decided not to take on Honeysuckle at Leopardstown on his comeback from injury despite reports that he has been working well and the Red Mills Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday week now looks likely.
Sure Honeysuckle has one reaching for the superlatives, but let’s not forget that this fellow is also unbeaten over hurdles including a highly-impressive 24 length success in last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
That was his third top-class win in a row and Mullins appeared to do his job with the usual brilliance as after beating Ballyadam by three and a quarter lengths at the Dublin Racing Festival in 2021, he appeared to improve to beat the same rival by 24 lengths at Cheltenham.
Chacun Pour Soi has been beaten on his two outings in England, but that hasn’t stopped backers getting behind him since his Dublin Racing Festival win and with non runner money back ALL races, the 10-year-old appears a lively third wheel in what looks likely to be one of the races of the Festival with Shishkin and Energumene also taking each other on again.
‘Chacun’ did his chances no harm with an easy 12-length win in Sunday’s Dublin Chase. The victory will have encouraged connections who had last seen their star in action when finishing last of five at odds-on in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December.
His win at the weekend was expected as he was officially rated at least 10lb higher than his four rivals and Mullins has a strong hand in this with him and Energumene.
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Last year’s Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle hero Flooring Porter has been well supported since the popular non runner money back initiative and he’s arguably been unlucky since entering the annals of racing history last season. He was subsequently pulled up in Punchestown’s Champion Stayers Hurdle when hanging very badly to the left, badly enough to be checked out by a vet afterwards although found post race normal, and then taking an uncharacteristic tumble two out when going best on his seasonal debut in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.
Then you can look at his last race in Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle in two ways – the winner Klassical Dream would have been too powerful for him anyway or ‘Flooring’, who lost many lengths at the start to ‘Klassical’ and was only beaten two, came out more creditably. You pays your money and you take your choice!
Punters have concentrated on Galvin and A Plus Tard for chasing’s big one since Paddy went non runner money back ALL races at Cheltenham and there doesn’t appear to be much between the first and second in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, when the former scored by a wafer-thin margin.
Galvin is proven at Prestbury Park having won last year’s National Hunt Chase and hasn’t done much wrong this term, only being denied once by an ultra-fit Frodon by three parts of a length in Down Royal’s Champion Chase.
The exact same can be said for A Plus Tard, who found only stable companion Minella Indo too good in last year’s Gold Cup, and since then put in a devastating performance when beating Royale Pagaille by 22 lengths in Haydock’s Betfair Chase before the short-head defeat by Galvin.
A similar conundrum to Klassical Dream and Flooring Porter, there’s not much between them in the Blue Riband Chase division.
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