Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle (2.30pm) at Fairyhouse on Sunday is available as a free Race Pass, meaning logged in customers can see all of our premium reviews and ratings.
The Grace Hurdle of Bar One Racing Hatton (2:30 p.m.) produced its fourth three-time winner in its 28-year history in 2021 as Honeysuckle (183) followed in the footsteps of Limestone Lad (1999, 2001 and 2002), Solerina (2003, 2004 and 2005) and Apple’s Jade (2016, 2017 and 2018) with another easy success.
Honeysuckle now has the opportunity to go even further with a record fourth victory in this Grade 1 and she is still largely the one to beat on Timeform’s weight-adjusted odds. She is now unbeaten in 16 races under the rules after winning that race 12 months ago by winning her third Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, her second Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and her second Champion Punchestown Hurdle.
Granted, Honeysuckle didn’t need to replicate her best form to win one of those races, but that’s because she was so superior to everything else in that division. Henry de Bromhead’s mare certainly has a significant class advantage over her seven rivals today – particularly with sex allowance taken into account – and she has the Flag ‘Horse for the course’ to emphasize that it is very effective in these conditions. Simply put, either she will have to underperform somehow or one of her rivals will have to make significant progress to stop the story on Sunday.
Willie Mullins saddles up three riders as he seeks a fourth victory in this race after winning it with Hurricane Fly (2010), Zaidpour (2012) and Arctic Fire (2015). The choice of his trio this year seems to be classic dream (172), who is now well established as a top class stayer having won three Grade 1 races around three miles over the past two seasons, including back-to-back renewals of the Champion Stayers Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. A strong traveler type, he is unlikely to be bothered by the drop at two and a half miles here and his excellent record when fresh identifies him as by far the most likely to chase honeysuckle home.
Mullins, who has the Flag ‘Hot Trainer’ to indicate that his stable is in poor health, also stools Echoes in the rain (168) and Softer (162). Echoes In Rain proved to be at least as good as ever by filling second place behind Honeysuckle in the latest edition of the Punchestown Champion Hurdle and since then she has become a smart performer on the flat. Basically, she’s watched a full stay at level, including going down just a neck in the Irish Cesarewitch at the Curragh last time out, suggesting she’s worth another try on this trip after slightly disappointing in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on his only previous run beyond two miles.
Saldier finished only fifth in that race 12 months ago and he continued to struggle in two subsequent starts last season. He showed he retained plenty of ability after nine months out when he was third (beaten eight lengths) in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last time out, but his patchy profile suggests there are no guarantees that he will rely on this effort and the balance of his form. suggests he’s not really at that level these days anyway.
Gordon Elliott, who also has the Flag ‘Hot Trainer’saddles Lord of Berlais (170) and Tea cup (165) as he attempts to add to Apple Jade’s three wins in this race. The 10-year-old Sire du Berlais didn’t struggle after seven months out when he was fifth in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan three weeks ago and a repeat of the form he showed in the of the Liverpool Hurdle victory at Aintree in April will give him strong claims in every direction.
At the other end of the age spectrum, five-year-old Teahupoo looked like a smart hurdler when he scored a hat-trick in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran in February, but his limits at this level seemed to be on display when he then failed to beat a single rival in both the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.
Bob Ashdale (164) finished two places ahead of Sire du Berlais in the Lismullen Hurdle, improving for the race after seven months out, his very awkward jump exaggerating the distance he was beaten by the top two after being stand up with the right rhythm. He’s a little upper class shy but tends to give his run and should be back in shape this time around.
The field is completed by Darver’s Star (161), well placed to win his last three starts at a lower level. It hasn’t been easy for him since pushing Honeysuckle all the way in the 2020 Irish Hurdle Champion, but he clearly retains most of his ability as a 10-year-old and shouldn’t be under. -felt now back in rank, unless in battle for minor honours.
Timeform analyst’s verdict:
Honeysuckle makes her long-awaited return and it’s very hard to envision anything other than comfortable success for Henry de Bromhead’s unbeaten and top mare as she targets a stunning fourth straight win in this event. Wille Mullins in the saddle three and his pair of Klassical Dream and Echoes In Rain seduce as a duo to chase the favorite.
Weighted Timeform Ratings:
172 Classic Dream
170 Lord of Berlais
168 Echoes in the Rain
164 Ashdale Bob
161 Darver’s Star
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