Honeysuckle (9-4 Joint-Favourite) signed off her career with a fourth Festival victory in today’s Grade One Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle. The nine year previously won this race in 2020 as well as the Unibet Champion Hurdle in 2021 and 2022.
After today’s length and a half success over Love Envoi, she heads off to the paddocks as the winner of 17 of her 19 races.
Speaking to BBC News, winning trainer Henry de Bromhead said: “So many emotions (were going through my mind), it was ridiculous. It’s brilliant and she’s just such an incredible mare, we feel so privileged and lucky to have had anything to do with her. It just meant so much, you dream of a fairy-tale ending and it doesn’t normally happen, but it has here and she’s read the script.
“I’m pretty sure (it’s her final race), it’s not my call but I’m 99% sure. I’d prefer Kenny (Alexander) to say for sure though as he’s the owner. I’m pretty sure that’s it though and to go out like that is incredible.
“It’s just a massive result. We know Jack is always with us and I’m sure he was here on Rachael (Blackmore)’s shoulder. Honeysuckle has been a huge part of our life and Jack just adored her – so she as much did it for him as she did for all of us.
“Rachael and Honey are two divas together and I’m going to keep saying that now as it really annoys Rachael! The two divas together. Rachael is class and she gave her a super ride. She’s an amazing lady and I’m very lucky to have her.”
De Bromhead said earlier: “It’s just incredible. I am just so happy for the mare, and for Rachael, and for all of us, Kenny… You dream of the fairytale ending, but so often it doesn’t happen. This is what she deserves. She is just an unbelievable mare, and I’m just delighted. I think in fairness, we’ve obviously had a terrible year with Jack and everything, and just the support people have given us… Most of it [the cheers as Honeysuckle came into the winner’s enclosure] is for Honey, because she has been so unbelievable, but everyone has shown us so much support. We’re really grateful for that – it’s been an incredibly tough time, and you dream that these kind of things will happen, but more often than not they don’t, so it’s amazing.
“This sport is mental. This the result I think everybody wanted, but you daren’t believe it will happen. She’s incredible, everyone’s incredible – Rachael, Kenny, Peter Molony. We are so lucky to have had her.
“She’s been tipping away – she’s bene in great form all year, but thankfully we picked the right race, when you see the other lad in the Champion Hurdle. There’s a big team behind her and we’re delighted.
“Jumping the last I thought Love Envoi might be gone on us, but – I used to say she never knows when she’s beaten; she rarely knows when she is beaten – she read the script.
“Any day you win a Grade One is an amazing day and any day you win a Grade One at Cheltenham is an amazing day. It’s an incredible day in the sense that she’s going out like she is.
“But there is the mares’ hurdle at Punchestown as well! I presume she’s retiring, that was our plan, but you never know. Get a few drinks into Kenny later – Molony will be going in one ear Walk In The Park, I’ll be going Walk to Punchestown!”
Winning riding Rachael Blackmore told ITV Racing: “We all wish a very special kid (Jack de Bromhead, the winning trainer’s son who was killed in a pony racing accident last year) could be here today, but he’s watching down on us.
“She is unbelievable. The way Henry has produced her every day is phenomenal. As a jockey I’m so grateful… so grateful he didn’t listen to you [Matt Chapman] anyway actually, or I wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking back into the winner’s enclosure! She’s just a phenomenal mare, she’s been incredible for my career, for everyone down in Knockeen who have looked after her over the years, Henry’s head lad David Roche does an unbelievable job with all the horses. She’s just a credit to everyone. Kenny is one of the coolest owners you’ll ever ride for and it’s a brilliant day.”
Blackmore said later: “I knew I’d pick up again after the last but she is just an unbelievable mare. It is incredible what she has done for me, but it is incredible what she has done for all of us. You dream of being involved with something like her. It is just amazing and fair play to Henry he has done such an unbelievable job. What a way to be able to walk back in the winner’s enclosure today. I feel extremely lucky to have teamed up with her throughout my career.
“You come to Cheltenham with Honeysuckle to ride and every jockey dreams of having the likes of her to go to Cheltenham with. She has given us so much and I’m so grateful to her. It will be different without her here next year.”
Winning owner Kenny Alexander said: “She hasn’t been running badly and I’ve kept saying that, she’s just not quite as good as she was last year. I’ve never said that she’s the greatest champion hurdler ever – and the winner of the last race may well turn out to be that – but I think she’s got to be one of the bravest. She’s got guts beyond belief and a tremendous winning attitude. She’s incredibly talented and today was just amazing, she had to tough it out but it was amazing.
“I’m really happy for Henry and his family getting that one on the board, it’s a tremendous day. This is just a horse race and you can’t really compare things that happen outside of it, but I’m happy that they can have a nice bit of enjoyment today and Henry and his wife Heather loved it. This is just a horse race and a bit of fun, it’s not real life really, but that was a great race and a great day.
“She’s retired now and I’ve had an absolute blast owning her. I’m lost for words to be honest, the celebration was out of control. If you can’t lose it a bit after winning a race like that though, you probably shouldn’t own racehorses!
“It just shows you how great the sport is when she’s getting a cheer like that. They don’t love me, that’s for sure! They may love Rachael and even Henry a bit, but they really love that horse.”