Honeysuckle could race off the shortest price since Istabraq won the last of his three titles in 2000 when the champion horse defends her Unibet Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham Festival on Tuesday.
Honeysuckle currently sits at 8/13 with many bookmakers, which is slightly shorter than Buveur D’Air – 4/6 back in 2018. Aidan O’Brien’s legendary Istabraq was 8/15 when completing his big race hat-trick over 20 years ago.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead's mare is unbeaten in 14 starts under rules. Honeysuckle has claimed 10 Grade One victories including three Irish Champion Hurdles as well as last year's triumph in the Cheltenham event.
“I suppose on ratings it possibly is her biggest test so far, but it's as you'd expect this race to be. It's really competitive and there's some great horses in there – much like last year,” said De Bromhead. “I’ve been told that Honeysuckle could go off as the shortest-priced Champion Hurdle favourite this century, but I had no idea.
“It's probably more pressure in that of course you want her to win, but it's like with any of them, you want them to run their best race. It would be unbelievable stuff if she could win again – there's not many that can win two Champion Hurdles, so it would be incredible.
“Her unbeaten run is amazing but all we can do is get her there as well as we possibly can and then hope we have a bit of luck, and that it all goes well.”
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Trainer Willie Mullins’ key contender Appreciate It has not run since winning the Supreme a year ago, but the stable believes the eight-year-old is one of the favourites.
“He was going chasing, but then he got injured and we couldn’t break his novice this late in the season,” said Mullins. “It was a fairly easy decision to go back hurdling after that. Appreciate It loves the track – he went well there last year. I'm happy he's going to go there with a big chance.
“He's a strong horse. I know we haven't had a run, but we've done that before. I'd say we have a good record for doing that (running well first time out at the Festival), but I don't know whether we've done it for the Champion Hurdle.
“It's all to play for I think, but we have a big hurdle to jump (in Honeysuckle).”
Nicky Henderson’s Epatante – looking to emulate Hurricane Fly in 2011 and 2013 by regaining her crown – is another horse to watch, as is Gordon Elliott’s pair Zanahiyr and Teahupoo.
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