Irish Champion Hurdle: Rachael Blackmore rides Honeysuckle to repeat Leopardstown win

Rachael Blackmore with trainer Henry de Bromhead after Honeysuckle's Irish Champion Hurdle win at Leopardstown
Honeysuckle's Irish Champion Hurdle triumph was one of two victories for the Blackmore-De Bromhead combination on the opening day of the Dublin Racing Festival

Rachael Blackmore rode star mare Honeysuckle to a hugely impressive second successive Irish Champion Hurdle triumph at Leopardstown.

Honeysuckle's 10th straight career win showed her Champion Hurdle credentials.

Henry de Bromhead's 10-11 favourite took the lead at the third last before powering away to finish well clear of Gordon Elliott's 10-1 shot Abacadabras.

At Sandown, the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Native River won the Cotswold Chase.

Despite a flawless career to date, Honeysuckle had the reputation of doing just enough in many of her races which included holding off fast-finishing Darver Star in the Irish Champion Hurdle at last year's Dublin Racing Festival.

However, it was a very different story on Saturday as she proved utterly dominant in the six-strong field after moving clear of 2017 race winner Petit Mouchoir just before the third last.

Such was her advantage, Blackmore was able to allow Honeysuckle to fiddle the final flight before pushing her out to win by 10 lengths, with Abacadabras a clear second ahead of Willie Mullins' Sharjah in third, as De Bromhead's star clinched a sixth Grade One success.

"She was just deadly and Henry has just done an unbelievable job with her," said Blackmore.

Connections of the winner retain the option of bidding for a second Mares' Hurdle success in the Cotswolds next month, but she appears almost certain to bid for Champion Hurdle glory, with her odds slashed from 6-1 to 9-4 joint-favourite with Epatante.

Winning trainer De Bromhead heaped praise on horse and jockey alike after the win.

"Rachael was brilliant on her and she's just class," said De Bromhead.

Asked whether this victory confirmed the Champion Hurdle participation, the trainer added: ""I'll have to speak to Kenny (Alexander, owner) and Peter (Molony, owner's racing manager), but you'd have to feel that we'd be leaning that way."

Native River to be aimed at second Gold Cup

Chacun Pour Soi, trained by Mullins, is now odds-on in places for next month's Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after taking the earlier Dublin Chase at Leopardstown.

Native River, meanwhile, bounced back to form aged 11 with a brilliant win at Sandown in the race which was rescheduled after Cheltenham's meeting was abandoned last week.

The 13-2 chance, under Richard Johnson, won by nine and a half lengths with Bristol De Mai second and Santini third.

"He's as tough as they come," said Colin Tizzard's son and assistant trainer Joe of Native River, who is about 16-1 for a second Gold Cup triumph.

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