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Irish Champion Hurdle outcome to influence Honeysuckle Cheltenham target

Henry de Bromhead has said the outcome of next week's PCI Irish Champion Hurdle could bring the Unibet Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival under serious consideration for star mare Honeysuckle.

Until this point the mares' hurdle has been the target for the brilliant unbeaten six-year-old, but she is set to take on the boys again at the Dublin Racing Festival after a commanding display in the Baroneracing.com Hatton's Grace Hurdle on Saturday week and tops the market as a general 7-4 chance for the Grade 1.

Asked how difficult it would be to sidestep the Champion Hurdle should Honeysuckle land the Irish equivalent, De Bromhead said: "We'd have to assess everything. At the moment we've said we're going to the Irish Champion Hurdle, then the mares' hurdle.

"It's a good question but quite a hard one at this stage, and we have to take a lot of things into account. It depends on the performance on the day, then what's turning up in the race, where do Apple's Jade and Benie Des Dieux turn up – they're two formidable mares among plenty of good mares.

"If she did win it'd be a decision we'd be leaving until much nearer the time, and it wouldn't just be on her performance. There'd be a lot to weigh up."

The Knockeen trainer enjoyed a Christmas period to remember and his high-flying mare is reported to be in fine form ahead of her festival clash with Sharjah.

The €200,000 prize will provide a new test for the Kenny Alexander-owned mare, who has yet to race under rules going left-handed and has been generally campaigned over further than two miles.

"She seems in great form and is working well," said De Bromhead. "It's great to have a mare like her. It's really exciting to say she's unbeaten so far and we've had some great days already."

Regarding the new test Honeysuckle faces on February 1, the leading trainer said: "She hasn't proven herself going left-handed, and it can be a factor, but she hasn't shown us any signs of it. Until you go and do it, who knows?

"She won her point-to-point at Dromahane, which is left-handed, but otherwise she's always gone right-handed. That'll be something new."

He added: "She won a Listed hurdle at Thurles last year, but has always looked very good at two and a half miles, so we never saw much reason to change from that. It's new and at this level it could be a different ball game, so we'll learn."

The Dublin Racing Festival promises to be a big weekend for team De Bromhead, with plenty of quality ammunition across the two-day bonanza, including Chacun Pour Soi's Christmas conqueror A Plus Tard.

Asked how the Cheveley Park Stud-owned chaser compares with former stable stars Sizing Europe and Special Tiara in ability over two miles, De Bromhead said: "He looked very good last time at Leopardstown.

"I probably always had him down as more of a two and a half mile-plus horse, but a lot of those good horses can go any kind of trip – Sizing Europe was probably the same.

"He's only six and has achieved quite a lot already. Compared to those guys he's definitely up there with them.

"We'll see how it goes at the Dublin Racing Festival. After that we were aiming for the Ryanair and I don't see that changing, but you never know."

De Bromhead looks set to saddle the favourite for both the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle and ERSG Arkle Novice Chase, with exciting performers Aspire Tower and Notebook on course for their Leopardstown engagements.

"He [Aspire Tower] had very solid form before we got him and if you set out to buy a horse off the Flat to go hurdling, he ticks a lot of boxes," the Waterford-based trainer said of his exciting juvenile hurdler, who is a best price 4-6 for Dublin Racing Festival glory.

"With his Christmas win being only his second run over hurdles, you'd imagine there's hopefully improvement in him."

He added of the Gigginstown-owned Notebook: "You'd have hoped he'd improve for switching to fences but I couldn't have ever said he'd have improved to this level. It's great to have him."

De Bromhead also confirmed that Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle runner up Captain Guinness would be entered for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and if he did line up at Cheltenham, it would be without another run.

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