Johnny Ward reports from Leopardstown
Leopardstown was in raptures as the wonder-mare Honeysuckle rallied like a warrior to take the feature PCI Irish Champion Hurdle on a day her rider Rachael Blackmore described as "magic".
Blackmore and trainer Henry de Bromhead had already combined to take a Grade 1 in the shape of Notebook but the roof came off Leopardstown as Honeysuckle overcame a sloppy jump at the last to score at odds of 8/11.
Having been untidy two out, the unbeaten Honeysuckle quickly took over the front-running Petit Mouchoir, but her stablemate headed her again after the last. However, it was Gavin Cromwell's Darver Star who finished better than the grey, though he could only finish second to the wonder-mare.
"It's amazing, my confidence is sky-high," said Blackmore, 30. "She has the heart of a lion, she just battled all the way."
Honeysuckle remains unbeaten, though it is unsure now whether she will go for the Unibet Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham or the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham next month, in which she may take on Benie Des Dieux.
"I thought she jumped well, maybe at the last she was big and lonely, but I am delighted. You dream of days like this," de Bromhead said.
Bookmakers make Honeysuckle 2/1 for the Mares' Hurdle, 5/1 for the Champion Hurdle, a race confirmed as the next race for Darver Star by Gavin Cromwell.
Blackmore and de Bromhead had already combined earlier to take victory with Notebook in a brilliant renewal of the Grade 1 ERSG Arkle Novice Chase.
Six runners went to post in the Foxrock sunshine but two horses utterly dominated almost from start to finish, 5/4 favourite Notebook and 100/30 chance Cash Back.
Cash Back and Danny Mullins tried to make all the running but Michael O'Leary's Notebook always looked to have his measure and he eventually came home three-quarters of a length in front.
This Grade 1 sizzler lost a little of its lustre pre-race with Fakir D'Oudairies scratched due to the change in going. However, it was still quite the spectacle, with the jumping of Notebook a sight to behold.
"He's had a phenomenal season already and is right up there with the best horses I've had," said de Bromhead. "He is amazing really, and just loves jumping."
For Blackmore, this was the continuation of an incredible season. "He's a pleasure to ride, absolutely electric," she said.
Cash Back rallied all the way to the line in second, but stablemates Melon and Bapaume were disappointing for trainer Willie Mullins.
Notebook is now 5/2 for the Racing Post Arkle on March 10 at Cheltenham.
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