Connections of Constitution Hill have been given an added incentive to take on Honeysuckle at the Punchestown Festival.
Henry de Bromhead’s supermare has won 15 times from 15 starts, retaining her Champion Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival under Rachael Blackmore.
Earlier on the same Tuesday card at the Festival it was Constitution Hill in the spotlight, as the Nicky Henderson-trained gelding lit up Prestbury Park with a staggering 22-length triumph in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
The two horses could yet cross paths in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle, a race Honeysuckle won by two and a quarter lengths last season and given a boost with the sponsors offering a bonus of £100,000 should a British-trained horse take the trophy back across the Irish Sea.
Conor O’Neill, Punchestown’s CEO said: “When Paddy Power came on board as Punchestown Champion Hurdle sponsors they committed to clear objectives.
“The race should be as competitive as possible, increase field sizes, attract the very best horses from both sides of the Irish Sea and then tell people about it to create anticipation and excitement for the overall promotion of the sport.
“Now in the second year of the sponsorship they have certainly backed this up with a €300,000 prize fund and bonus incentive. The first Paddy Power Champion Hurdle was behind closed doors so we really look forward to working with the team as we welcome crowds back to famous festival Friday at Punchestown.”
While the bonus is intended to lure British horse across to the meeting, the 10-strong field of current entries has no shortage of Irish-trained runners and Gordon Elliott could be responsible for two of them.
Both Teahupoo and Zanahiyr are in the mix, with the former disappointing when last in the Champion Hurdle and the latter going well when falling in the Betway Aintree Hurdle.
Elsewhere at the meeting Elliott has made entries for Aintree winner Three Stripe Life, who took the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle and could head next to the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle.
Minella Crooner, who missed the Cheltenham Festival with a minor setback, is entered for the same race and is also engaged in the three-mile Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.
“We’ve made entries for all the Grade One races at Punchestown and we will be well represented throughout the week,” said Elliott.
“It’s our season-ending Festival in Ireland and a fantastic five days. We’ve had a bit of luck there in the past and hopefully we can finish the season off with a high.
“It’s where my owners want to have runners and it’s where I want to have runners.
“We had two winners at Cheltenham and two Grade One winners at Aintree and the horses have been running well. We haven’t always had the best of luck in the last few weeks, but a lot of the horses that weren’t winning were hitting the crossbar and finishing second so it was brilliant to have the couple of big winners at Aintree and see Delta Work and Escaria Ten run so well in the National itself.
“We’ve had some great days at Punchestown. It’s a brilliant place and they’ve a great team there on the track and behind the scenes and they provide beautiful ground which is so important at this time of year.
“Three Stripe Life was brilliant at Aintree and will go over fences next season so he might take in Punchestown but again, he’ll tell us over the next few days. He’s a horse to really look forward to next season.
“Minella Crooner has options of the Alanna Homes and the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdles.
“It was disappointing that he picked up a setback just before Cheltenham but it was very minor.
“We were just forced to miss a few days with him at the wrong time, but he’ll go to Punchestown fresh now and I’ve been happy with him in the last couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to getting him back out.”
Mighty Potter was pulled up in the Supreme at Cheltenham and aims to bounce back in the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle, with Fil Dor entered in the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle for the same owners after his second-placed run behind Vauban in the Triumph Hurdle.
“Mighty Potter didn’t run his race at Cheltenham but has come home well and he’ll definitely go to Punchestown and I’d love to have a big winner there for his owners, Andrew and Gemma Brown,” said Elliott.
“We also have Fil Dor for them as well and he’ll go for the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle on the Saturday.
“He has to try turn the tables with Vauban, who beat him at Cheltenham and the Dublin Racing Festival, but we’ll give it a go. Punchestown is a different type of test and if he can run his race we’d be delighted.”