THERE was an hour on Tuesday which will live forever in the memories of anyone privileged to have witnessed it. It brought tears to the eyes of hardened racing professionals.
After much bleating by attention seekers, and some considered opinions from others, that Honeysuckle’s connections should have aimed her at the Champion Hurdle, Kenny Alexander, Henry de Bromhead, Peter Molony and Rachael Blackmore were totally vindicated when the brilliant mare raised the roof at Cheltenham, amid scenes that were unforgettable.
In reality, nothing would have lived with the imperious Constitution Hill on the day, and the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle was not short of quality in depth. It was the more competitive of the two races, and the dynamic duo of Honeysuckle and Rachael had to dig deep to deny Love Envoi, recording a victory that was nothing short of magical.
With the spirit of Jack de Bromhead in the Cotswolds, everyone present and watching was conscious of the significance of this last hurrah for Honeysuckle. A mare of a lifetime, she compiled a record second to none. The fact that she won her sole point-to-point, triumphed in all but two of her 19 starts over hurdles, and that 13 of these victories were at Grade 1 level, is important.
More relevant is that she, along with her inseparable partner Rachael and the team at Knockeen, captured the imagination of the wider public, putting racing on the front pages of national and international papers. A new audience was wooed by their achievements, and for that we can be ever grateful.
Thankfully, Rachael continues to inspire, and that victory on Tuesday was just one of her week’s highlights.
British-trained winners were scarce enough, as the Irish battalion came, saw and conquered Prestbury Park.
One that got away from us was the Champion Hurdle, and Nicky Henederson’s charge Constitution Hill was as impressive as a winner of that race could be. In the flood of emotion surrounding Honeysuckle’s win, he probably didn’t receive the level of adulation and respect that would normally follow such a performance.
How good is he? The answer is that he is very good indeed. His unbeaten run of six wins over hurdles, five of them in Grade 1 races, have been gained by an aggregate of 86 lengths. He beat State Man by nine lengths this week, and that is the closest that any horse has got to him on the racecourse proper. He has beaten some of the best horses around, and the heights he could yet reach are unimaginable.
Honeysuckle may be embarking on a new career at stud, but we are also at the start of a new era with Constitution Hill.