Rachael Blackmore says she cannot wait to ride the “phenomenal” mare Honeysuckle in tomorrow’s Grade One Unibet Champion Hurdle and insists: “I can’t find any fault with her.”
Currently second in the race for the Irish champion jockeys’ title, Blackmore is bidding to become the first female rider to win the race.
And she said of the Henry de Bromhead-trained seven year old: “Honeysuckle is incredible. She’s never let us down so far and I’m just hoping we can continue in the Champion Hurdle.
“She digs deep when she has to, she gets me out of trouble when she has to – she’s just been phenomenal and I can’t find any fault with her.
“It’s fantastic to be involved with a horse of her calibre. It’s what any jockey dreams about, getting teamed up with something like her. It’s just a privilege.”
Honeysuckle, a Sulamani mare, is unbeaten in her 10 starts over hurdles. She took the Grade One Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2020 with Blackmore in the saddle, and the pair have since won the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November and the Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February, the latter by 10 lengths.
Blackmore added: “Her owner, Kenny Alexander, his main aim was to win the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and that was a fantastic achievement for him to be able to do that, with the help of Peter Molony. We got that done last year, and I think her performance at Leopardstown was ultra-impressive. So why not have a stab at the Champion Hurdle?
“It’s an extremely competitive race; these championship races are unbelievable. There’s last year’s winner Epatante, Goshen. Hopefully we are on our A game and can produce the goods again.”
Blackmore has ridden 84 winners in Ireland this season and is only six behind the jockeys’ title leader Paul Townend.
She added: “I have a massive good book of rides at Cheltenham; the likes of Champagne Gold (McCoy Contractors County Hurdle), if he goes, Captain Guinness (Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase), Notebook (Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase) and A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup. I’m very much looking forward to riding him as well – I could go on all day.
“We’ve had a fantastic year so far. This is the important week, so hopefully the success can carry through.”
Blackmore, 31, has three Festival winners to her name so far: Minella Indo in the 2019 Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, A Plus Tard (2019 Listed Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase) and, in 2020, Honeysuckle in the Grade One Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.
All three have been for de Bromhead, with whom she has been closely associated for the past three years. Brought up in Killenaule in County Tipperary, she comes from a family with no connections to racing, and started her career with Shark Hanlon, who gave the jockey her first winner in February 2011. She turned professional in 2015, and has rapidly ascended the jockey ranks.