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Honeysuckle (9/4), ridden by Rachael Blackmore and trained by Henry de Bromhead, defeated Benie Des Dieux in a cracking renewal of the £120,000 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.
Always prominent in the two miles and four furlong event, Honeysuckle stayed on gamely in the closing stages to fend off the sustained challenge of 4/7 favourite Benie Des Dieux, trained by Willie Mullins, by a half-length.
De Bromhead paid tribute to Honeysuckle, who is now unbeaten in eight starts over hurdles and is a four-time G1 winner, as well as rider Rachael Blackmore, registering her third winner in total at The Festival.
The winning handler, who registered an opening day double with the earlier success of Put The Kettle On in the Racing Post Arkle, said the winner Honeysuckle:
“The way she won her maiden hurdle, she looked nice. We let them try and develop in the track and see if they can work their way up, so you wouldn’t be trying to find out too much at home. She always looked nice and was strongly recommended to us after she won her point-to-point.”
4.10pm Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
1 Honeysuckle (Kenny Alexander) Henry de Bromhead & Rachael Blackmore 9/4
2 Benie des Dieux (Susannah Ricci) Willie Mullins & Paul Townend 4/6f
3 Elfile (Kenny Alexander) Willie Mullins & Danny Mullins 16/1
Distances: ½, 6½.