TONY Mullins, who rode the great mare Dawn Run to many of her successes, feels Honeysuckle elevated herself into the “super league” when winning a third Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
Dawn Run remains the only horse to have won both the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup and while the Henry de Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle has some way to go before emulating that achievement, she appears to have no peers over the smaller obstacles.
In winning a third Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, she stretched her unbeaten run to 13 and she is already as low as 4\7 favourite to retain her Champion Hurdle crown.
“You can find holes in the horses she’s beating, but she keeps beating them with more authority every time,” said Mullins.
“She certainly looks like she’s a better mare this year again, compared to last year. The authority she won with on Sunday was startling, at all stages she looked in command and you don’t get that often.
“They went a good gallop, but she had every move covered. When you have one that does it right-handed, left-handed, flat track, undulating track, two miles and two and a half – she’s a versatile, classy mare.”
De Bromhead and owner Kenny Alexander, along with racing manager Peter Molony, had discussions in the summer about whether to head over fences. But for now that option remains on hold.
“I read on Twitter someone saying she’ll just mop up over hurdles (rather than going chasing), but it’s not like she’s winning mares'-only races. She’s winning the Hatton’s Grace three times, she’ll be going for the Irish Champion and then the English Champion again, she’ll have competition no matter where she goes,” said Mullins.
“I don’t see any reason to go chasing yet. If you’re completely in charge over hurdles, I don’t see any reason to leave that behind, but I imagine they’ll have a serious discussion about doing it next season perhaps.
“She arches her back. She has a different style of jumping to Istabraq for instance. She looks like she’d jump a fence, but you never know until they do.”
One big difference at the weekend compared to most of her signature wins to date was that it came in front of a big crowd at Fairyhouse, and Mullins believes her popularity is reaching new heights.
“I’d imagine she had a fair following before Sunday, but it will be interesting to see what it is like the next day. I think that performance brought her up another level. We knew she was very good, but I think yesterday took her into the super league.
“She looks like she is the real deal and any sport needs them, like Ronaldo and Messi in soccer, the ones who keep on doing it at the highest level are the ones who reach a wider audience.
“She’s unbeaten in 13, nine Grade 1s and on her run yesterday – Henry said she was 10kg heavier than her Champion Hurdle-winning weight – I can’t see anything beating her this season as there’s a bit there to find.
“It looks to me like she’s matured into a better mare than she already was. Epatante put up a good run in the Fighting Fifth, but I don’t think that would worry Honeysuckle.”