Honeysuckle “drifting like a barge” as Matt Chapman takes on Cheltenham champion

One of the biggest favourites for Tuesday's opening salvo of Cheltenham Festival action has started to fade at the 11th hour, but ITV pundit Matt Chapman can't understand why Honeysuckle's odds are slipping.

Rachael Blackmore is hoping to ride the eight-year-old star to victory in the Champion Hurdle almost a year to the day after the duo won it for the first time together. The Henry De Bromhead-trained champion could become the first mare to successfully defend this race if she lives up to her high billing.

Honeysuckle has long been viewed as the top contender to win what is easily the showpiece event of Day 1 at the Festival this year. However, a gradual ebb in the odds has suggested the betting public are considering their options for the 3.30pm headliner.

Not one to follow the crowd, however, Chapman assured he'd be sticking with the incumbent queen of the Champion Hurdle. Asked why he'd be taking on Honeysuckle's odds (priced at 4/5 with William Hill at the time of writing), the ITV character responded: "Things are slightly changing, because she's drifting like a barge!

"You can back her at 8/11 at the moment. Remember, we're been talking about Honeysuckle—she was 4/7, 1/2 and even 4/9 a couple of weeks ago. You can back her at 8/11 today.

"Look, she's unbeaten, as Fitzy (Grand National and Gold Cup-winning jockey, Mick Fitzgerald) has said. She's the reigning champion. She's a magnificent mare, and we will all cheer her home if she's taken clear over the last, because we want champions in this game."

Do you think Honeysuckle will retain the Champion Hurdle title? Let us know in the comments section.

The only other contender who even comes close to Honeysuckle's odds is Willie Mullins -trained Appreciate It, another eight-year-old talent with odds of around 4/1 in the hours leading up to the race. The price then skyrockets up to 10/1 for the likes of Teahupoo and Epatante, trained by Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson, respectively.

Chapman and the ITV punditry team gazed at images of De Bromhead's favourite enjoying a pre-race snack as the former continued: "But I don't think her [Honeysuckle's] form allowed her to be as short as she has been."

Honeysuckle is still yet to lose a race in her career and has won 15 in a row since she debuted at Dromahane in April 2018. She made her Cheltenham debut in 2020 when she won the Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle, following up with a six-and-a-half-length win over Sharjah in last year's Champion Hurdle.

Chapman described Honeysuckle as "fantastic" but questioned the quality of her recent competition as ITV analysed a graphic showing the runners-up from her eight most recent races.

Fitzgerald argued Sharjah and Abacadabras each fell into the category of great hurdling competition, but Chapman rebelled: "Sharjah, Fitzy? If Sharjah was in the Champion Hurdle, there wouldn't be a single person waking up this morning excited!"

Over-priced or not, Honeysuckle has a major opportunity to collect a piece of Cheltenham history if she can successfully defend the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday. Constitution Hill claimed victory in the Supreme Novices Hurdle earlier on Tuesday, while Jonbon finished second to give Henderson an early one-two triumph.

Pick up your Daily Mirror every day of the Cheltenham Festival for a FREE £2 shop bet with William Hill which can be used on any of the sporting action!

18 + Terms apply. See tomorrow's paper for your voucher.

Read More

Read More

Source: Read Full Article