Honeysuckle bidding for third Hatton’s Grace Hurdle win
The Winter Festival later this month at Fairyhouse is destined to deliver some superb Jumps action – we look at the key entries being aimed at the meeting’s big races
The Kenny Alexander-owned Honeysuckle (pictured) is among the star entries for the three Grade 1 races on the second day of the BARONERACING.COM Winter Festival at Fairyhouse on Sunday 28 November.
A quartet of Willie Mullins-trained horses head the opposition to Henry de Bromhead’s unbeaten mare as she bids to emulate the late Solerina and Apple’s Jade and win the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Hatton’s Grace Hurdle for a third straight year.
In all, Honeysuckle is a six-time winner at Fairyhouse, and she brought her winning tally to 12 when adding to her famous Champion Hurdle success at the Cheltenham Festival in March in the Punchestown equivalent the following month.
She beat Sharjah to the post on both of those occasions and his trainer Willie Mullins has entered a team of four in a bid to lower her colours for the first time.
Leading the champion trainer’s assault is the four-time Grade 1 winner Klassical Dream which defied a 16-month lay-off to win the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown in April.
One with more recent winning form is the dual Grade 1 winner Saldier which won the Guinness Galway Hurdle during the summer and followed up with a clear-cut victory in the Grade 3 Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle at Tipperary a month ago.
The mares, both Grade 2 winners at Fairyhouse, Burning Victory, winner of the 2020 Triumph Hurdle, and Stormy Ireland, a top-level winner at the Punchestown Festival, make up the Mullins quartet.
Gordon Elliott trained Apple’s Jade to win the race in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and he has made five entries with Zanahiyr leading the way after his impressive return to action at Down Royal last weekend.
Abacadabras, winner of last season’s Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle and Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle is another possible for the Cullentra yard along with Grand Roi, dual Cheltenham Festival winner Sire Du Berlais and Teahupoo, twice a winner at Fairyhouse at the beginning of this year.
Ronald Pump pushed Honeysuckle all the way to the line in last year’s renewal and he has been entered by trainer Matthew Smith while Peter Fahey’s chances could be carried by another three-time Fairyhouse winner, Royal Kahala.
Shark Hanlon’s Skyace, winner of the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in April, Noel Meade’s Cheltenham Festival, Fairyhouse Easter Festival and Punchestown festival winner Jeff Kidder and the Paul Nolan-trained Latest Exhibition, a Grade 1 novice hurdle winner at Leopardstown, also feature among the 19 entries.
A number of impressive recent winners lead the way in the BARONERACING.COM Drinmore Novice Chase with the Emmet Mullins-trained Cape Gentleman a definite contender on the back of his beginners’ chase success at Punchestown and a taking win at Grade 3 level at Cork on Sunday.
Joseph O’Brien has entered the Wexford winner Fire Attack and his runaway Cork scorer Busselton while the Jessica Harrington-trained Lifetime Ambition rates very highly after his comeback victory at Down Royal.
Similarly, Galway winner Sixshooter and the taking Thurles scorer Ballyshannon Rose are worthy of their entries for Noel Meade and Paul Fahey respectively.
Gordon Elliott has made eight entries and among them are last season’s Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Royal Bond Novice Hurdle winner Ballyadam and Riviere D’etel which made a winning start to her chasing career at Fairyhouse early last month.
Elliott also looks to hold a strong hand in the latest renewal of the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Royal Bond Novice Hurdle with nine of the 24 entries hailing from Cullentra.
Among them are Mighty Potter and Hollow Games which made winning starts over hurdles at Down Royal last weekend and Three Stripe Life, successful at Fairyhouse on Tuesday.
Elliott has also entered the easy Navan maiden hurdle winner Chemical Energy, the exciting dual-bumper winner Gerri Colombe and Off Your Rocco, the winner of hurdle races at Listowel and Limerick recently.
Willie Mullins has won the Royal Bond on eight previous occasions and his entry of six is led by the Grade 3 Joe Mac Novice Hurdle winner Purple Mountain. M C Muldoon, a novice hurdle winner at the Galway festival, and the unbeaten pair, Jungle Boogie and Statuaire, are also among the champion trainer’s entries.
A Grade 3 winner at Down Royal, Impervious is unbeaten in three starts for Colm Murphy, while Lorna Fowler’s Colonel Mustard looked good when scoring at Galway last month and equally exciting is the Gavin Cromwell-trained My Mate Mozzie, an easy winner of a maiden hurdle at Punchestown.
Joseph O’Brien is well represented with dual bumper winners Eric Bloodaxe and Uhtred and recent maiden hurdle winner Vultan on his team. Emmet Mullins’ Crowns Major booked his place in the early line up with a taking display at Cork on Sunday.