The Dublin Racing Festival is just a week away, and the two-day Leopardstown fixture will undoubtedly provide plenty of excitement and talking points.

Going on past years, Willie Mullins is likely to train approximately half the winners on both days, which is a talking point in itself, but for me the big story is Honeysuckle.

She has won the Irish Champion Hurdle for the past three years and she started this season as unbeaten in 16 lifetime starts.

But then she had a blip at Fairyhouse in early December, finishing only third in a race she had also won for the past three years.

Suddenly Honeysuckle’s aura of invincibility had been shattered, and since then virtually every commentator has decided her reign is over and her time is up.

To be fair, her own connections haven’t exactly been insisting she is as good as ever. Within a week of the Fairyhouse defeat, her trainer Henry de Bromhead admitted he would consider aiming Honeysuckle at the less competitive Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, rather than the Champion Hurdle (which she has won for the past two years).

Possible retirement

And then just before Christmas Honeysuckle’s racing manager Peter Molony effectively ruled out the Mares’ Hurdle and boldly suggested that the people’s favourite would probably be retired on the spot if she didn’t show enough sparkle in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

So, we might well be seeing Honeysuckle for the final time in public next Sunday. That’s a frightening thought.

At time of writing, the favourite for the Irish Champion Hurdle is State Man, trained by (you guessed it) Willie Mullins.

Based on the vibes coming from connections, you’d imagine Honeysuckle will need to beat him at Leopardstown if she is to be allowed a chance to win a third Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

It’s quite possible that Mullins will train every other horse in the field, except Honeysuckle. Sentiment dictates you have to cheer for the lady against the boys.

Can she do it? Hmm, it won’t be easy but she won’t want for support from the grandstand. Win or lose, she will get a fitting reception when she returns to the unsaddling enclosure for what could be the final time.