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Rachael Blackmore cannot wait to ride the “phenomenal” mare Honeysuckle in today’s Grade One Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham (3.05pm), admitting “I can’t find any fault with her.”
The Killenaule, Co. Tipperary rider is bidding for Cheltenham Festival history today as she attempts to become the first female jockey to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
Speaking about the race favourite, Blackmore said:
“Honeysuckle is incredible. She’s never let us down so far and I’m just hoping we can continue in the Champion Hurdle. She digs deep when she has to, she gets me out of trouble when she has to – she’s just been phenomenal and I can’t find any fault with her.”
Blackmore, who has ridden over 80 winners in Ireland this season and is only six behind the jockeys’ title leader Paul Townend, added:
“It’s fantastic to be involved with a horse of her calibre. It is what any jockey dreams about, getting teamed up with something like her. It’s just a privilege.”
Unbeaten in 10 runs over hurdles
Honeysuckle, a Sulamani mare, is unbeaten in her 10 starts over hurdles. She took the Grade One Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at The Festival in 2020 with Blackmore in the saddle. The pair have since won the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse in November and the Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in February, the latter by 10 lengths.
Blackmore added: “Her owner, Kenny Alexander, his main aim was to win the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and that was a fantastic achievement for him to be able to do that, with the help of Peter Molony. We got that done last year, and I think her performance at Leopardstown was ultra-impressive. So why not have a stab at the Champion Hurdle?
“It’s an extremely competitive race; these championship races are unbelievable. There’s last year’s winner Epatante, Goshen. Hopefully we are on our A game and can produce the goods again.”
The thirty-one year-old jockey has tasted Cheltenham Festival success on three occasions. Her first win came with Minella Indo in the 2019 Grade One Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. A Plus Tard in the 2019 Listed Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase gave Blackmore her second Festival victory. Last year, Honeysuckle took the Grade One Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle