Four rivals face huge task to prevent unbeaten Honeysuckle’s coronation

Lots of anticipation surrounding Galopin Des Champs’ second chase start after impressive Christmas success

Honeysuckle could start at her shortest ever odds as she pursues a hat-trick of victories in Sunday's Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The Dublin Racing Festival has got its headline act but bookmakers are hardly alone in predicting more of a coronation than a contest for the superstar mare.

Appreciate It's defection leaves Honeysuckle well clear of four rivals who all have a mountain to climb on ratings. Unbeaten in 13 runs - and with a 10th Grade One firmly in her sights – the sport's poster-partnership of Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore should have a straightforward task.

Only once have they not started favourite in those 13 races and it is over three years since they scored at prohibitive odds of 30-100 at Fairyhouse. Some firms have been trading at similar prices for Sunday’s €200,000 highlight where the one niggle in many minds will be the comparatively subdued form of Henry De Bromhead’s team generally.


A National Hunt strike-rate of less than 10 per cent in the last three weeks introduces a slight element of uncertainty although perhaps not as much to the eventual outcome as the style. A level of performance similar to 2021 would provide a quality stamp on Irish jump racing’s shop-window event.

If Honeysuckle is the proven article then much of Sunday’s anticipation will revolve around Galopin Des Champs’ potential. On his debut over fences at Christmas, Willie Mullins’s Grade One winning hurdler put up a visually superb display.

Among his seven opponents for the Ladbrokes Novice Chase are proven Grade One chase winners in Fury Road, Beacon Edge and the fairytale Limerick winner Master McShee from Paddy Corkery's tiny outfit.

But there is real excitement about Galopin Des Champs’ second chase start and even a workmanlike victory might provoke an anti-climactic reaction in the circumstances.

However, he should score and bookmakers will be on their guard against short-priced Grade One accumulator bets also involving Honeysuckle and two other Mullins hotpots.

Last season's top rated chaser Chacun Pour Soi has flopped in his cross-channel excursions but is formidable on home ground with a hat-trick of his own on the line in the Dublin Chase. Sir Gerhard goes to the Tattersalls Novice Hurdle with a huge reputation that will require an authoritative victory to back up.

The all-powerful Mullins team has half a dozen in the concluding mares bumper although there appears to be little doubt about Pink In The Park being regarded as the No 1.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column