The Irish Champion Hurdle remains the likely next step for Honeysuckle after suffering defeat for the first time in her career at Fairyhouse.
Henry de Bromhead’s brilliant mare was bidding for a record fourth Hatton’s Grace Hurdle success and a 17th consecutive victory overall in Sunday’s two-and-a-half-mile feature.
But after travelling powerfully to the lead at the top of the home straight, Honeysuckle’s effort petered out between the final two flights and she was beaten just under three lengths into third place behind Gordon Elliott’s surprise winner Teahupoo and Willie Mullins’ Klassical Dream.
While connections were disappointed to see the eight-year-old lose her unbeaten record, Peter Molony – racing manager to owner Kenny Alexander – feels there was still plenty of encouragement to be taken from her performance.
“She was good this morning, all fine,” he said. “It was a great run – finishing third in a Grade One. The winner is a very good horse on soft to heavy ground and we’re only comparing it with her magnificent unbeaten record up to now.
“In normal circumstances we’d be very happy with the run and after everything she’s done in the last couple of years we’ve been in bonus territory, it’s a dream.”
Honeysuckle has won the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival in February in each of the past three seasons and Molony expects that to be her next port of call.
“At the moment, the Irish Champion Hurdle is the plan,” Molony added.
“It was a good run on Sunday, her first run of the season and we’re happy, so onwards and upwards.
“I couldn’t be more happy for Brian Acheson (winning owner). He’s been a good friend to Kenny and I and Henry. He puts an awful lot into the game. No one deserves success more than him.”