Appreciate It will attempt to end one of the most dominant runs of form in the National Hunt when he takes on Honeysuckle at Cheltenham Festival in the Champion Hurdle. Honeysuckle is the defending champion in the event and has won her last 14 races in a row.
She’s still unbeaten! ðŸ˜ﾍ
Honeysuckle pulls away to win the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle ðŸ¥‡
Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle – what an iconic duo!
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) February 6, 2022
Henry de Bromhead’s charge is the leading contender in the Cheltenham horse racing bets on the Champion Hurdle given her prowess on the track over the course of the season. Appreciate It on the other hand has not been in action in a year since dominating the field in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival. Despite his lack of time on the track, Willie Mullins’ charge is still touted to make a strong run for the crown in the Champion Hurdle tips on the sheer basis of his pedigree.
The Irish thoroughbred appears to have all the credentials of a champion, but toppling the incredible Honeysuckle without a year of racing will be a difficult challenge. Either Mullins knows something about his charge that the rest of us do not, or the legendary trainer is simply backing Appreciate It to blow away Honeysuckle with his outright pace. It will be fascinating to see whether Mullins’ gamble pays off on the grand stage, especially in a race where he has not been successful of late.
The Irishman had won the Champion Hurdle four out six times between 2011 and 2016, which included two victories for his horse Hurricane Fly along with triumphs for Faugheen and Annie Power. Since then he has been forced to watch Nicky Henderson win three times with Buveur D’Air in back-to-back seasons along with Epatante in 2020. Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir d’Allen was a surprise winner in 2019 when Buveur D’Air fell at the third hurdle, presenting the Irishman with his first victory in the race, whereas Mullins’ horse Melon finished second in the contest.
De Bromhead entered the scene with Honeysuckle last season, and Mullins could only finish second once more with Sharjah, who has previously placed as a runner-up behind Epatante. It appears that history could be repeating itself for Mullins in the event unless Appreciate It can produce a truly remarkable outing with his first run of the campaign. The Irish thoroughbred won all four of his races in the 2020/21 campaign, including his brilliant performance in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
There were good horses in the field in the event last season, but none of the calibre of Honeysuckle or even Epatante. Without measuring the quality of his charge over the course of the season, Mullins is leaving a lot to chance and in the hands of jockey Paul Townend.
Although Townend is one of the most accomplished jockeys in the sport, notably thanks to his two Cheltenham Gold Cup wins with Al Boum Photo, he has not won the Champion Hurdle. Rachael Blackmore outshone the Irishman last season, and will be in a position to do so again with Honeysuckle in the event. There is a lot of pressure on Mullins and Townend for Appreciate It to at least compete against a formidable opponent.