Irish Champion Hurdle: Rachael Blackmore rides Honeysuckle to Leopardstown triumph
Rachael Blackmore rode mare Honeysuckle to a thrilling Irish Champion Hurdle victory and also earned another big win at Leopardstown's Dublin Festival.
Unbeaten Honeysuckle's triumph was her eighth straight win as she recovered from a mistake at the last to just hold off fast-finishing Darver Star.
Petit Mouchoir, from the same Henry de Bromhead stable as Honeysuckle, took third after leading following the last.
Blackmore also won the Arkle Novice Chase on De Bromhead star Notebook.
The Irish jockey's two triumphs on the opening day of the Dublin Festival increases her haul of Grade One wins to eight as her reputation continues to rise.
Honeysuckle's previous outing had seen the star mare clinch an impressive Grade One triumph in the two-and-a-half-mile Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in early December.
Dropping back to two miles here, there was plenty of market confidence with De Bromhead's star being sent off the 8-11 favourite.
Everything was going according to plan with Blackmore tracking stablemate Petit Mouchoir into the straight, with no other apparent threat.
However, Honeysuckle jumped the last awkwardly, handing the initiative back to Petit Mouchoir, before Blackmore's mount responded on the run-in to regain the lead as 20-1 outsider Darver Star came flying from the pack.
Honeysuckle held on to win by half a length with Petit Mouchoir the same distance back in third.
BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght
Some performances are outstanding because of the winning distance, others for the style in which a narrow success is achieved. Honeysuckle falls into that category.
Her jumping wasn't always brilliant, notably at the last when she surrendered the initiative, but what was brilliant was the grit with which she battled to regain it. No wonder Rachael Blackmore said she was 'a pleasure' to ride.
This horse, with her unbeaten record, fine name and engaging jockey - and trainer - is gaining an ever-growing fan club which will doubtless roll up at Cheltenham next for the Champion Hurdle itself.
Notebook emphasises Arkle credentials
Earlier, Blackmore's composed ride helped Notebook maintain his unbeaten record over fences as he held off Cash Back in another thrilling finish and the horse will now be aimed at the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
The De Bromhead horse was sent off 5-4 favourite with her main expected challenger Fakir D'Oudairies a late withdrawal after trainer Joseph O'Brien felt the drying ground was too quick for his hopeful.
Willie Mullins' Cash Back proved to be Notebook's only competition as they were neck and neck after the last before De Bromhead's star edged clear to win by three-quarters of a length.
Prior to the race, Notebook, with Blackmore on board, gave his handlers some concern as he bolted some distance away from the start before the jockey eventually got the horse settled.
"I was a little bit worried. He flew off in the wrong direction," said Blackmore, but she had no complaints with his performance once the race did start.
"He's such a pleasure to ride. He attacks his fences, but he's well able to shorten as well. He's class."
Mullins' Chacun Pour Soi returns to winning ways
Willie Mullins' Chacun Pour Soi will be aimed at the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham after returning to winning ways in the Dublin Chase.
Willie Mullins' lightly-raced eight-year-old looked a potential superstar when beating Defi Du Seuil at Punchestown last spring.
He did not reappear until Christmas, when he was surprisingly beaten by De Bromhead's A Plus Tard and a rematch was on the cards.
However, A Plus Tard was a late absentee as De Bromhead felt the ground was too quick to run his charge and when Mullins' Cilaos Emery departed at the first fence, Chacun Pour Soi's task was further eased.
The 6-5 favourite, ridden by Paul Townend, had three and three-quarters lengths to spare from another Mullins mount Min, who triumphed in the race over the last two years.
"He's brave and jumps great. Whether he's good enough to win a Champion Chase, I don't know, but he'll be there to have a go," said Townend.
Saturday's card also gave trainer Paul Nolan his first Grade One triumph since 2012 as Latest Exhibition, ridden by Bryan Cooper, earned a two-length win over Cobbler's Way with Longhouse Poet taking third.