Honeysuckle will face four Willie Mullins-trained rivals in a fascinating renewal of the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle.
Henry de Bromhead’s mare is unbeaten in six starts under Rules and was a hugely impressive winner of the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse on her latest appearance.
She races left-handed for the first time since winning her sole point-to-point and drops to two miles in the feature event at Leopardstown on Saturday – and is a hot favourite to extend her winning sequence in the hands of Rachael Blackmore.
Mullins has saddled a record six previous winners of the Irish Champion Hurdle, with the legendary Hurricane Fly claiming five victories between 2011 and 2015 and Faugheen getting his name on the roll of honour in 2016.
This year the Closutton handler’s team is headed by Sharjah – a dual winner over the course and distance after landing the Matheson Hurdle for the second year in succession last month.
He is joined by last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle hero Klassical Dream, who has been beaten on each of his two starts so far this season, as well outsiders Aramon and Saglawy.
De Bromhead has a second string to his bow in Petit Mouchoir, winner of the 2017 Irish Champion Hurdle and runner-up to Sharjah over Christmas.
Gavin Cromwell’s Darver Star, Jessica Harrington’s 2018 winner Supasundae, Brendan Murphy’s huge outsider Ballycaines and the Jane Williams-trained British raider Monsieur Lecoq complete the 10-strong field.