Henry de Bromhead admits Honeysuckle will face two key unknowns when she puts her unbeaten record on the line in the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle.
The daughter of Sulamani has barely been troubled to win her six starts under Rules – and proved she has what it takes to beat the boys at the top level when easily accounting for her rivals in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse.
But she drops from two and a half to two miles for the feature event on Saturday at Leopardstown, and also races left-handed for the first time since winning her sole point-to-point start almost two years ago.
De Bromhead said: “It’s great to have a mare like her. She’s gone unbeaten so far, and we’ve had a lot of good days with her already. We’ll see how it all unfolds in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
“Touch wood, she has been fairly straightforward and very easy to have around.
“There’s nothing to suggest she won’t go left-handed, but until you go and do it you don’t know. We’re also dropping her back in trip to two miles, which again is a bit of an unknown at this level.”
The Knockeen-based trainer has a second string to his bow in Petit Mouchoir, winner of the 2017 Irish Champion and runner-up to the re-opposing Sharjah in the Matheson Hurdle last month.
De Bromhead added: “He’s in great form and had a really good run at Christmas. He’s won this race before and is really coming back to himself now, so we’re hoping for a good run from him as well.”
Sharjah is one of three runners for Willie Mullins, who is bidding to win the race for the seventh time following the five triumphs of Hurricane Fly between 2011 and 2015 and Faugheen’s victory in 2016.
As well as winning the Matheson Hurdle over the course and distance in each of the past two seasons, Sharjah has also landed the Galway Hurdle under the trainer’s son Patrick.
He said: “He lost his form after he had a bad fall in Leopardstown earlier in his career. He had a few very average runs after that, but if you take his form from when he won the Galway Hurdle (in 2018), he has more ones next to his name than anything else.
“He got brought down at the third in the Champion Hurdle (at Cheltenham) last year. It was very early, but I thought we were travelling very well.
“I was disappointed with his first run of this season in the Morgiana. But a lot of our horses have needed their first run – and he’s a very relaxed, laid-back type of horse, so he probably need the run more than most horses.
“You always get good draining ground at Leopardstown, and it’s probably his ideal track.”
Klassical Dream was declared but taken out on Friday evening as he was lame.
Aramon and Saglawy complete the champion trainer’s team.
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 are the other hopefuls.