Honeysuckle will put her unbeaten record and lofty reputation on the line in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Successful on her only start in the point-to-point field, Henry de Bromhead’s mare has since won each of her five starts under rules with the minimum of fuss.
After missing the Cheltenham Festival, the daughter of Sulamani gained compensation in a Grade One at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday – and made the perfect start to her new campaign at the same venue this month.
Honeysuckle has won on all four of her trips to Fairyhouse, but will undoubtedly face her toughest task to date on Sunday – with fellow star mares Apple’s Jade, winner of the Hatton’s Grace in each of the past three seasons, and Benie Des Dieux among her potential rivals.
De Bromhead said: “I’m happy with Honeysuckle, touch wood. We were always going to stay hurdling this year. She’ll love a fence, but she’s only five – what she achieved last year was incredible, because she’s only a baby.
“It was either run in the Hatton’s Grace or wait for the mares’ hurdle in Leopardstown over Christmas, but she’s not eligible for that.
“We’re looking at the Mares’ Hurdle in Cheltenham and working back from there – and it looks like the top three in the betting for the Mares’ Hurdle will be in the Hatton’s Grace.
“I think we’ll go for that and then back off her and then aim to have one run before Cheltenham – that’s what we’re thinking at the moment.”
Honeysuckle is one of a clutch of exciting mares De Bromhead trains for owner-breeder Kenneth Alexander.
Sinoria made a smart start to her career over fences at Thurles last week, while the Knockeen-based trainer expects Minella Melody to go a long way over hurdles this term following a recent success at Cork.
“We’re very fortunate to have the mares we have,” De Bromhead added.
“Sinoria is brilliant, and Minella Melody is a mare we like a lot.
“There’s the Lombardstown Mares Novice Chase at Cork on December 8 for Sinoria, so long as it doesn’t come too soon. I think it’ll be 17 days between races – which is a little bit sooner than ideal – but it’s a mares only Grade Three, so it would look an obvious race for her.
“Otherwise, you’re probably looking at the Grade One in Limerick over Christmas.”
Of Minella Melody, the trainer added: “She won her bumper very impressively and then she was just beaten in Aintree. We had a go at Punchestown, and she was probably starting to feel her season at that stage.
“She jumps amazing, and her first run in Cork was really good. She took a blow there, but she was able to win doing it.
“There’s a new mares’ novice hurdle in Punchestown on John Durkan day for her. We’ll aim for the mares’ novice in Cheltenham.”