Four rivals stand between Honeysuckle and a third straight success in the Grade 1 Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival’s second day at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Henry de Bromhead’s unbeaten superstar, described this week as a “special mare” by Rachael Blackmore, comes up against a duo from the Willie Mullins stable, Saint Roi and Echoes In Rain, while Zanahiyr represents Gordon Elliott with Heaven Help Us carrying the hopes of trainer Paul Hennessy.
Chacun Pour Soi also has four rivals as he bids to win the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase for the third year running. Willie Mullins’ 10-year-old is facing opposition from the Paul Nicholls-trained Greaneteen and Henry de Bromhead’s Captain Guinness. Willie Mullins also runs Cash Back while Dunvegan turns out for Pat Fahy.
The first of Sunday’s Grade 1 races is the Ladbrokes Novice Chase and this morning’s eight declarations are headed by Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs, Capodanno, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Fighter Allen. Grade 1 winners Master McShee, trained by Paddy Corkery, Gordon Elliott’s Fury Road and the Noel Meade-trained Beacon Edge are set to line up alongside the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite.
Sir Gerhard looks the one to beat in the Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle. His trainer Willie Mullins has also declared Statuaire, unbeaten in three starts since arriving in Closutton, Farout and El Fabiolo. Gordon Elliott relies on Three Stripe Life, Gavin Cromwell and Henry de Bromhead go with My Mate Mozzie and Watch House Cross respectively, while Gatsby Grey and Colonel Mustard will represent Oliver McKiernan and Lorna Fowler.
The day’s action begins with the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle and the 15-runner field includes Leopardstown Christmas Festival winner Brides Hill, trained by Gavin Cromwell, and three from the Gordon Elliott stable, early favourite Party Central, Glan and Say Goodbye. The Tom Gibney-trained Must Be Obeyed is certainly in the mix after her runaway success at Fairyhouse.
The Bulmers Secret Orchard Leopardstown Handicap Chase boasts Aintree Grand National winner Minella Times as its top-weight. Runner-up in this race last year, Henry de Bromhead’s charge is one of 17 declared runners with the hat-trick seeking Fakir d’Alene on Gordon Elliott’s team of three. Blackbow runs for Willie Mullins with Cheltenham Festival winner The Shunter lining out for Emmet Mullins.
Last year’s winner, the Pat Fahy-trained Drop The Anchor is among the 28 runners and three reserves in the Liffey Handicap Hurdle in which John Queally’s Arcadian Sunrise tops the weights. Autumn Evening is a notable runner from the Jessica Harrington yard with Noel Meade’s Cask Mate and Mouse Morris’ Get My Drift other leading fancies.
Top contenders in a strong-looking renewal of the Grade 2 Coolmore NH Sires Santiago Irish EBF Mares INH Flat Race include Willie Mullins’ Pink In The Park and Eabha Grace along with Harmonya Maker and Liberty Dance from the Gordon Elliott stable. The John Kiely-trained Hi Stranger also features among a final line-up of 16 runners.