Sweet 16 for Ireland's darlings Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore at Punchestown
Wonder-mare Honeysuckle maintained her unbeaten record with her 16th consecutive victory in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Champion Hurdle in front of a modern day record crowd of 40,984 at Punchestown.
This was also an incredible 12th Grade 1 success. She went off a warm order at 1/5f to account for her five rivals today.
Saint Roi hugged the rail straightening for home and attempted to fend her off but the superstar of Irish racing surged past him and went on before the last.
A patient race was ridden on Echoes In Rain who improved to second before the final flight, however, she was no match for Honeysuckle on the run-in as the winner kept up the gallop to prevail by three lengths from the 18/1 runner-up.
Rachael Blackmore said: "She is just really, really phenomenal. Henry (de Bromhead) does some job with her producing her like this every single day. She was brilliant.
"We went a fair gallop early on and when you turn in on her, and ask her to find another gear, it is some feeling for a jockey. I have the utmost confidence in her, too.
"When we turned in, I did have to ask her for that gear and she found it and away we went. She just does what she has to. I can always feel when there is something coming because she can sense it too and she kicks on.
"Jockeys want to get on good horses but she brings that to a whole other level. Getting to ride Honeysuckle is what people dream of and not every jockey gets a sniff of that in their career. She is really just incredible. It is fantastic for Kenny Alexander (owner) as well, I know he knows how lucky he is as well.
"I was joking with Puppy (Robbie Power having his last ride in this race on unplaced Teahupoo) yesterday saying 'there will be no fairy tales tomorrow!' I hope he gets as big a cheer as we get walking back in. He's been some man to have in the weighroom. I'll be sad to see him go."
Henry de Bromhead added: “I got a bit nervous turning, because when you see Paul (Townend) and Willie (Mullins) lurking away behind you, it’s always a worry. But she was brilliant - she just gets it done.
“They went a good gallop, and everything went well. I thought she jumped really well. She came up out of Rachael’s hands at the third last and we all know what can happen but touch wood, she’s just so accurate, and Rachael’s so good on her. She just doesn’t interfere at all, really.
“She’s so straightforward and they’re a lethal combination the pair of them. Rachael was brilliant on her. There’s a lot of pressure going out on her these days, but it’s not a bother to Rachael.
“’The fairy tale continues is the easiest way to put it. It’s ridiculous.
“I’m so negative, I’m always waiting for something bad to happen, but it’s amazing and I’m so lucky to have her.
“Yeah, I am (nervous). There’s the unbeaten record, and you want to do it for everybody. There’s such a will for her to win. I said it at Cheltenham, if will helped you win races she’d have won by the length of the straight because anyone I met was wishing us good luck.
“She’s got such great support, it’s brilliant. Hopefully everyone gets as much a kick out of it as we do."
This race saw Robbie Power hang up his boots after a marvellous career. Among a plethora of big-race victories was Silver Birch in the Aintree Grand National of 2007, and Sizing John in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Punchestown Gold Cup of 2017. He also won the Irish Grand National in the same year on Our Duke.
Paddy Power kept Honeysuckle unchanged at 7/2 for the Champion Hurdle.