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Rachael Blackmore earns a honeysuckle fable that ends with the last horse race before retirement

Rachael Blackmore earns a honeysuckle fable that ends with the last horse race before retirement

There were happy scenes on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival as Honeysuckle blew up her phenomenal career with an emotional victory in the Close Brothers Mares hurdle.

Superstar Henry de Bromhead’s shine has apparently dimmed this season and the decision has been made to bring the double champion hurdles hero back to the race where she first announced herself at the Festival for her swan song.

And the nine-year-old did not disappoint her adored audience, showing all the features that made her one of the most loved and admired mares of modern times.

A sent away 9-4 co-favorite ever-loyal jockey Rachael Blackmore placed Honeysuckle in second place, following the lead Love Envoi, and although the herd swarmed as the field went down the hill, the order remained the same until the last one.

As Love Envoi refused to lie down, the brave mare Honeysuckle answered her rider’s every call to gallop once more up Cheltenham Hill, descend to the bottom of the well, and dig deep to make her way to the giant well – and… mid-length triumph.

The win placed her fourth at the festival, and she signs as one of the all-time greats, winning 17 of her 19 career starts.

The subsequent party reflected not only Honeysuckle’s performance but also the sincere love for De Bromhead and his family, who lost their son Jack in a tragic pony racing accident in September.

De Bromhead said, “It’s a fairytale ending that normally never happens. It’s amazing. I am very happy for the mare, Rachael and Kenny (Alexander, owner) and all of us. It deserves it. She is such an unbelievable mare. I’m shocked.

“We had a terrible year with Jack and everything. It has been an incredibly difficult time and we are truly grateful for the support everyone has given us.

“You dream that these things will happen, but most of the time they don’t. It’s the result everyone wanted, but you wouldn’t dare believe it would happen. “

The Waterford County coach felt justified in allowing Honeysuckle to bow to her own gender after Constitution Hill’s breathtaking performance at the Champion Hurdle earlier this afternoon.

He added: “She has been in great shape all year and luckily we picked the right race when you see the other lad in the Champion Hurdle!

“I was a little worried jumping to the last one – I thought Love Envoi didn’t have us. But honeysuckle rarely knows when it’s being beaten, and it reads the script.”

Asked if Honeysuckle’s racing career was over, De Bromhead quipped: “I suppose so, but there’s an obstacle for champion filly in Punchestown!

“I’ll have a few drinks with Kenny later, Peter Molony (race manager) will be saying ‘Walk In The Park’ in one ear and ‘Walk to Punchestown!’ in the other.”


Alexander, however, ultimately confirmed that his extraordinary mare would retire, recalling her “best day in racing”.

“It’s really astonishing. It’s great that Henry and his family have this victory under their belt,” said the Scot. “I came here more with hope than anything else, but I supported it. Last night it went 4-1 which was outrageous.

“I never said she was the best hurdler, she certainly isn’t. In fact, the former (Constitution Hill) may turn out to be, but it must be one of the bravest and one of the most loved. People here love her and people in Ireland love her.

“I said after Leopardstown that he won’t win the championship by steeplechase, but if he’s still in shape to win the filly race, let’s do it – and if he loses, so what?

“It’s a proper goodbye. I don’t want to go to Punchestown. It would be nice to do it in front of the Irish, and if they want to take her there to show off, I’m more than happy to do it, but I don’t want to run her around and go to the well too often.

“She’s high now – nothing really compares to that. Let him enjoy his retirement. A million percent this is my best day racing.”


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