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Honeysuckle expected to line up in Mares’ Hurdle after disappointing run at Leopardstown

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If you had said at the beginning of the National Hunt racing season that Honeysuckle would be finishing her career in the Cheltenham Festival’s Mares’ Hurdle – it would have been met with considerable disappointment.

While that could be regarded as relatively harsh – given the great mare’s career to date, of which includes consecutive victories in the Champion Hurdle and a hattrick of wins in the Irish Champion Hurdle prior to 2023 – it’s easy to see why many fans and pundits don’t deem it the most tantalising of swansongs.

However, after two consecutive defeats in the space of two months at Fairyhouse and at the Dublin Racing Festival most recently – other than retirement – the Mares’ Hurdle appears to be the only option for her connections.

The news of the nine-year-old’s likely entry into the two-mile and four-furlong affair was all but confirmed on Twitter recently by Peter Molony, the racing manager of Honeysuckle’s owner Kenneth Alexander.

“Barring accident, injury, illness or extremes of ground she will be prepared for another tilt at the Close Brother Mares Hurdle,” he said.

While Honeysuckle has shortened noticeably in the horse racing odds ever since it became apparent she would be saddling up for the Mares’ Hurdle – she won’t be without her fair share of competition come race day.

With that being considered, let’s take a look at the three horses most likely to challenge Honeysuckle at Prestbury Park on March 14.


Marie’s Rock

Having won six of her last seven, the only loss of which coming as a result of the mare pulling up due to an obstruction – this eight-year-old has proven to be a force to be reckoned with over the past 15 months. That’s without mentioning her more notable achievements, which includes victories in the Mares’ Hurdle in 2022 followed by a triumph in the Irish Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown a month later.

Her impressive 2022 and strong start to 2023 has drawn interest from punters, with Marie’s Rock garnering a short price in the Mares’ Hurdle at 3/1 – which is good for second favourite.



While this thoroughbred has only finished first past the post in two of her past six outings, she hasn’t been far off the pace. It’s particularly unforgiving to criticise her in her two most recent losses, as she was bested by arguably the greatest hurdler since Istabraq in Constitution Hill.

Her consistency of being there or thereabouts at the business end of races was rewarded at Doncaster most recently, with the French-bred horse running on strongly to win by six-and-a-half-lengths from Salsada and Martello Sky.

For those potentially looking to place a bet on Epatante, at the time of writing, she is 4/1.


Brandy Love

Similarly to the aforementioned Epatante, Brandy Love has been impressive in her wins – and challenging the leaders in her defeats. However, the concern heading into this year’s Mares’ Hurdle will be one of rust. The seven-year-old hasn’t raced since April of last year, but with the Prestbury Park course being her preferred left-handed track, her enormous potential could outweigh any worries regarding her inactivity.

Additionally, given her run in April of 2022 was an eight-length triumph in a Grade 1 fixture at Fairyhouse over the respected Love Envoi, it’s not surprising Brandy Love is at 4/1 to take home the spoils at Cheltenham.

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