Honeysuckle was the major draw as a record crowd of just under 41,000 attended the penultimate day of the Punchestown Festival last Friday.

Rachael Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead’s mare duly obliged in the feature Paddy Power Champion Hurdle to make it an amazing 16 wins from 16 starts, delighting the massive crowd in the process.

“She is just really phenomenal,” Blackmore said after the race. “She took a little bit of stoking up today but she always does what she has to do.

“When we turned in I did have to ask her for that gear and she found it and away we went. I can always feel when there is something coming because she can sense it too and she kicks on.”

Paul Townend and Willie Mullins with the trophy for The Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle won by Klassical Dream \ carolinenorris.ie

Next season is likely to be Honeysuckle’s last as a breeding career awaits, but she could well face her toughest test yet if she meets Constitution Hill who was a brilliant winner of this year’s Supreme Novice Hurdle.

If the pair stay fit, the Champion Hurdle is their most likely meeting point where Honeysuckle would be bidding to join a list of hurdling greats as a three-time winner.

The overall attendance figures for the five-day Punchestown Festival were down from 126,840 to 115,729 but a rainy final day likely proved a big impact, with just short of 19,000 attending, which is roughly half of the corresponding 2019 figure.

While Honeysuckle took the main plaudits on the track last week, she was an exception to the general rule of Willie Mullins dominating the entire festival. With 14 winners the Carlow trainer was short of his previous best at the meeting, but remarkably 10 of the wins were at Grade 1 level.

Mullins also broke the 200-winner mark for the season for only the third time in his career last week and that is an ominous sign for the chasing pack. The tally ensured Mullins was crowned champion trainer for a 16th time as the season champions were crowned on Saturday. In fact, four of the other six champions, were directly linked to the Mullins yard.

HRI 2021/2022 National Hunt Awards. Champion Lady Rider Jody townend \ Healy Racing

Mullins’s stable jockey Paul Townend won his fifth champion jockey title with 84 wins while Jack Foley, the stable conditional jockey, took that title with 44 wins.

Mullins’s son and assistant trainer Patrick won his 14th champion amateur title while the champion lady amateur was Jody Townend, younger sister of Paul, for the second year running.

The champion owner was J.P. McManus, who scooped that title for the 19th time.


Meanwhile last weekend, the flat season got under way in earnest when the first two classics were run at Newmarket. Aidan O’Brien could manage only third in both races, with Godolphin’s Charlie Appleby landing a significant one-two in the 2000 Guineas through Coroebus and Native Trail.

The pair were drawn on opposite sides of the track but came through to meet in the middle late on and it was James Doyle’s Coroebus who emerged best.

Doyle was landing a first British classic win on the son of Dubawi and remarkably secured his second just 24 hours later when riding 16/1 shot Cachet to victory in the 1000 Guineas, which was a huge win for that filly’s up-and-coming trainer George Boughey, securing a first classic at the age of just 30.

O’Brien’s closest finishers, Luxembourg (2000) and Tuesday (1000) are both likely to be seen better over longer distances so they ran with real credit in defeat. The pair will likely head to the Derby and Oaks next.