Henry de Bromhead has confirmed his unbeaten mare Honeysuckle will contest the Close Brothers Hurdle at next week’s Cheltenham Festival, rather than the Unibet Champion Hurdle on the same afternoon.
The Kenneth Alexander-owned six-year-old claimed her seventh victory from as many starts with a battling display in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown last month, after which connections were keen to keep their options open regarding her Festival target.
Honeysuckle was as short as 4-1 to beat the boys in the Champion Hurdle next Tuesday.
However, she will instead go back against her own sex – throwing up a potentially mouth-watering clash with the Willie Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux, winner of the race in 2018 and a final-flight faller 12 months ago.
De Bromhead told the PA news agency: “That (Mares’ Hurdle) is where we’re going.
“It was a tough decision, but we’ve made it, and that’s it.
“She seems in great form.”
Peter Molony, who purchased the 110,000 euro mare and acts as racing manager to Alexander, believes it is wrong to suggest connections have opted for the easier option with Honeysuckle.
He said: “I think everyone knew we were always going to leave it until late. In our opinion she’s a two-and-a-half-mile mare – that’s her optimum trip.
“I’ve read somewhere that we’re lacking in ambition – but if taking on Benie Des Dieux is lacking ambition, I don’t know what ambition is!
“It will be a great race. Let’s hope everything turns up in one piece.”