HONEYSUCKLE is clear favourite at 2/1 for the Grade 1 Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham, following confirmation on Tuesday morning that the Henry de Bromhead-trained mare will be aimed at the race.

In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown, in which Honeysuckle finished a well-held second to State Man, connections were tight-lipped on future plans.

Immediate retirement was believed to be under consideration but it appears that Honeysuckle has taken her race well, prompting racing manager Peter Molony to issue an update via Twitter on Tuesday morning.

Molony said: "I think, after Sunday on mature reflection, most reasonable people would agree she has taken a step back.

“She still fought her heart out and when Vauban came to take second off her she put her head down and her ears back and went ‘not on your life’.

“So she still has that competitive spirit, she’s still a racehorse and that’s why we’ve decided to give her one last hurrah. She deserves it and Cheltenham would be a lovely place to bow out.”

Honeysuckle was cheered to post prior to the Irish Champion Hurdle, with home supporters and those visiting from Britain keen to see the popular nine-year-old triumph round Leopardstown one last time, and Molony admits it was a special but humbling experience for those associated with the 12-time Grade 1 winner.

“The whole day on Sunday, strangely enough, even though we got beat, was one of the best days we’ve had on a racecourse with Honey,” continued Molony.

“The reception she got, the cheer when Rachael got legged up, the roars as she cantered down to the start – Rachael said when she got down to the start she had a stupid grin on her face from the huge reception they got.

“Then the reception when she came back – it was humbling and phenomenal. It was a wonderful day apart from the fact we got beat.”

Victory in the Mares’ Hurdle would give Honeysuckle a fourth success at the Festival and Molony believes her place amongst the greats is already secured ahead of one last outing at Prestbury Park.

He added: “The public have really taken her to their hearts and it’s wonderful, so Cheltenham is probably the right place for her to finish her career.

“I think she is amongst an elite band of horses already, she’s been phenomenal and number one thing is let’s get her back safe and sound and hopefully we will have a great day.”

Bookmakers reacted to the news by installing Honeysuckle as the 2/1 favourite for the Mares' Hurdle, a race she memorably won in 2020 when defeating Benie Des Dieux.

Second favourite is Marie's Rock (3/1), winner of the Mares' Hurdle last year and impressive again on her reappearance at Cheltenham on New Year's Day versus males in the Relkeel Hurdle.

Willie Mullins has the next in the market, Brandy Love (4/1). Marie's Rock's stable companion Epatante is also around 4/1, as is the Harry Fry-trained Love Envoi, who won the Mares' Novice Hurdle last year.

The high-class Echoes In Rain, trained by Willie Mullins, is no bigger than 6/1 for what is shaping up to be a superb race.