Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore bid for a repeat success in the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle. Photo: Alain Barr/Racing Post
Honeysuckle has five rivals to beat if she is to land a second success in the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore on the opening day of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown this Saturday.
Owned by Kenny Alexander, the unbeaten superstar comes up against a Willie Mullins team of three, headed by his triple Matheson Hurdle winner Sharjah. The champion trainer is also represented by Saint Roi and Saldier while Gordon Elliott runs both Abacadabras and Petit Mouchoir, winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2017 when trained by de Bromhead.
Six horses will go to post for the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase with Mullins again fielding a team of three, last year’s first and second, Chacun Pour Soi and Min, and Tornado Flyer. Notebook, successful in the Arkle Novice Chase last year, is another of Henry de Bromhead’s charges out for further Dublin Racing Festival glory while Jessica Harrington runs Sizing Pottsie and Joseph O'Brien will saddle Fakir D'oudairies.
The first of Saturday’s Grade 1 races is the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors ‘€50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff’ Novice Hurdle and course winners Gaillard Du Mesnil and Stattler look to head Willie Mullins’ strong team. Emmet Mullins runs another leading fancy in Cape Gentleman while Gavin Cromwell’s Vanillier, the Mouse Morris-trained Gentlemansgame, Jessica Harrington’s Ashdale Bob and the Gordon Elliott-trained Fakiera are other notable runners in a field of 13.
Willie Mullins also boasts a formidable team among the nine runners in the Patrick Ward & Company Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase. The champion trainer runs Energumene, Franco De Port, Unexcepted and Blackbow with the likes of the Gavin Cromwell-trained Darver Star, Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness and Gordon Elliott’s Felix Desjy heading the opposition.
The Matheson Handicap Chase is the first of the weekend’s handicaps and a full field of 20 is headed by the hat-trick seeking Epson Du Houx, trained by Henry de Bromhead, Emmet Mullins’ The Shunter, Aramax, trained by Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins’ pair, Pont Aven and Andalusa.
A total of 22 runners will line up for the Ladbrokes Hurdle and among them is the Eddie Cawley-trained Golden Jewel, runner-up in the race a year ago. Topping the weights is the Willie Mullins-trained Buildmeupbuttercup and other notable entries include Paul O’Flynn’s West Cork Wildway, Eclair De Beaufeu, winner of the Matheson Handicap Chase on the card a year ago for Gordon Elliott, Noel Meade’s Hes A Hardy Bloke, the Gavin Cromwell-trained Gabynako, and the Charles Byrnes-trained Advanced Virgo.
The Goffs Future Stars INH Flat Race, won by Envoi Allen in 2019 and Appreciate It last year, will have ten runners. While Gordon Elliott relies on Chemical Energy, Willie Mullins runs three, Kilcruit, Whatdeawant and Ramillies. Gavin Cromwell’s Letsbeclearaboutit and the Emmet Mullins-trained Noble Yeats are also included.
Tim Husbands, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse, said, “The declarations for the opening day of Dublin Racing Festival are fantastic, it will be an exciting and competitive afternoon of racing. We are grateful to the owners and trainers for their support, especially in the current challenging times.”