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Blackmore bags first Grade 1 in Ireland as Honeysuckle slams Fairyhouse rivals

She has done just about everything else over the last few months so it was only right that a first Grade 1 success on home soil should be achieved before her sensational season drew to a close. 

Rachael Blackmore has continued to push Paul Townend all the way in the jockeys' championship, celebrated her first Cheltenham winner when A Plus Tard landed the Close Brothers, and then added a first Grade 1 onto her burgeoning CV when Minello Indo took the Albert Bartlett. 

At Fairyhouse on Sunday a first Grade 1 win in Ireland was crossed off in emphatic fashion on the unbeaten Honeysuckle, who was in a different league to her 15 rivals in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final, blowing them away with a smart turn of foot after the second-last.

Blackmore said: "It's incredible, unbelievable really. This mare is a bit special and to be associated with her is fantastic. It's hard enough to be able to get rides in Grade 1s, so to be on a horse good enough to win is brilliant. 

"She was fantastic and made my job easy. She's got a very exciting future. She didn't put a foot wrong." 

Given the ease of this success, there was an overwhelming sense of what might have been had she been allowed to take her chance in the Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, a race won by Eglantine Du Seuil, who was only third here, beaten eight and a half lengths.  

Winning trainer Henry de Bromhead said: "She's a super mare. It was very frustrating at the time when she missed Cheltenham, but the owners said you have to do what’s right for the mare and thankfully their patience has been repaid.

"She just went a bit flat and we weren’t happy with her, but she was back in good form about two weeks after Cheltenham." 

The trainer added: "She’s some five-year-old and has achieved so much already. She’s won over two miles, two and a half miles, and looks like she could go further again.

"She jumped really well today bar one, and is a really exciting mare. She’s in the Grade 1 on the Friday of Punchestown. We’ll see how she is after this before deciding on that."

Honeysuckle, who had previously struck at Listed and Grade 3 level, has won her four starts over hurdles by an aggregate of more than 26 lengths. 

Asked whether she will stay over hurdles next season or be sent over fences, de Bromhead replied: "That's a very good question. She's quite a valuable mare now!"

The Willie Mullins-trained Elfile stayed on to finish second, giving owner Kenny Alexander a memorable one-two.

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