Blackmore and Honeysuckle cap dream season with Punchestown success


achael Blackmore capped her phenomenal season by partnering superstar mare Honeysuckle to victory in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle on Friday. 

The Henry De Bromhead-trained seven-year-old backed up her Champion Hurdle victory at Cheltenham by extending her unbeaten record to 12 races with a comfortable two-and-a-quarter-length victory over Sharjah, despite a blunder at the final hurdle. 

“It’s 100 per cent relief – I nearly threw it away at the last,” said Blackmore. “She was feeling the season a little bit I think, but she’s just phenomenal.

“I wasn’t as comfortable throughout the race on her today, but still she just delivers.”

Together with Irish Champion Hurdle success at Leopardstown in February, and Hatton’s Grace glory at Fairyhouse in November, the triumph rounded off a perfect campaign of four Grade 1 wins from four starts for Kenny Alexander’s mare. 

Speaking after the race, Alexander once again raised the possibility that she could go chasing next season, rather than seek to reign supreme over hurdles once more. 

“We have to sit down and have a chat about it (plans for next season),” he said. 

“The safe option would be to go back over hurdles and it’d be wonderful if we could win another Champion Hurdle in Cheltenham and another Irish Champion Hurdle – that would be wonderful.

“There is a temptation there (to go over fences). She’s a wonderful jumper – she looks like a chasing mare. The temptation is there – how exciting would it be, but we’ll have a chat.

Blackmore made history at the Cheltenham Festival by becoming the first female rider to be top jockey at the meeting, Honeysuckle providing her with one of six winners over the four days. 

She then followed that up with an historic Grand National success at Aintree on board Minella Times. 

Going into this week’s Punchestown Festival, Blackmore still had an outside chance of claiming a first Irish Champion Jockey title, but a quiet week until now allowing defending champion Paul Townend, riding for the in-form Willie Mullins yard, to extend his lead. 

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