THE legendary Honeysuckle heads nine remaining entries for the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle, one of three Grade 1 races at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
Henry de Bromhead’s superstar mare joined a trio of greats, Limestone Lad, Solerina and Apple’s Jade, as a three-time winner of the race a year ago and she is set to bid for a record fourth success on her eagerly anticipated seasonal return this weekend.
The eight-year-old is unbeaten in 16 racecourse starts and remarkably seven of those wins have come at Fairyhouse. Standing in her way are a trio from the Willie Mullins stable, Klassical Dream, Echoes In Rain and Saldier.
Darver Star got as close to Honeysuckle as any other horse when going down by just a half-a-length in the 2020 Irish Champion Hurdle. Gavin Cromwell’s rejuvenated ten-year-old is set to take on the unbeaten wonder mare once again on the back of winning his last three outings in a row.
Gordon Elliott has left in Sire Du Berlais, who conquered Flooring Porter in the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree's Grand National meeting in April, Teahupoo and Commander Of Fleet. Ashdale Bob is set to represent Jessica Harrington.
Famously, Gordon Elliott gained his first Grade 1 success with Jessies Dream in the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase in 2010 and three years later he won the race with subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack.
Elliott looks to have a strong hand for Sunday’s renewal with Hollow Games, Mighty Potter, Three Stripe Life and Minella Crooner standing their ground as he attempts to land the Grade 1 for a record-extending seventh time.
There are five Willie Mullins-trained contenders with recent winners Adamantly Chosen, El Barra and Authorized Art in the mix along with this year’s Irish Grand National third Gaillard Du Mesnil and Shadow River with the Joseph O'Brien-trained Banbridge an intriguing contender.
It is set to be a big weekend for trainer Barry Connell who aims two of his stable stars at Grade 1 races. Enniskerry remains on track for the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase while the unbeaten Marine Nationale heads for the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
In all, 11 horses remain in the first of Sunday’s Grade 1 races with Willie Mullins leaving Champ Kiely, Hercule Du Seuil, Ashroe Diamond and Polo Lounge in the race while Gordon Elliott still has Irish Point, Three Card Brag and Imagine.
The Henry de Bromhead-trained Inthepocket, Gavin Cromwell’s Path D’oroux and Prairie Dancer also go forward to Friday’s final declaration stage.