‘He jumped like a champion’ – Willie Mullins up for Constitution Hill clash with State Man but Honeysuckle could retire

WILLIE MULLINS is up for a Champion Hurdle shootout with his State trooper.

Exciting six-year-old State Man confirmed himself the main challenger to Constitution Hill at Cheltenham with a dominant win at Leopardstown.

PAState Man was an impressive winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle[/caption]

PAHoneysuckle suffered her second defeat in a row – and retirement could beckon[/caption]

But retirement looks on the cards for fan favourite Honeysuckle, who went down on her sword but was well-held in second in the Irish Champion Hurdle.

There was a real buzz around Leopardstown as Rachael Blackmore got the leg up on the wondermare in the paddock, with loud cries of ‘go on, Rachael’ as she headed out to the track.

Barely five minutes later the place was deadly silent as Henry De Bromhead’s nine-year-old suffered her second defeat in a row.

Take nothing away from State Man, who has now won six on the spin over hurdles and is the clear 3-1 second favourite for the Champion Hurdle.


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He looks all-over a Champion Hurdle horse and he would be the one to beat in an ordinary year – sadly for him Constitution Hill is anything but ordinary.

Winning trainer Mullins said: “It wasn’t the plan originally to make the running but Paul wanted to control the race and he did it very nicely.

“He jumped like a Champion Hurdler all the way down the back, he was asked some big questions and he came up every time.

“He is improving all the time and I couldn’t have asked for anymore. He has won the County Hurdle and he is very quick over his hurdles.

“I’m very happy and it’ll be a good race at Cheltenham all being well.”

De Bromhead played his cards close to his chest when asked about Honeysuckle’s future, but owner Kenny Alexander hinted it could be the end of the road for the dual Champion Hurdle winner.

He said: “Maybe the time has come. I backed her today because I thought she’d win but she isn’t as good as she was.

“She owes us absolutely nothing and I dread anything happening to her, she’s been the horse of a lifetime and she is in one piece.

“We will have discussions and if Henry and Rachael want to go for the Mares at Cheltenham then we’d go for it, but we will see.” 

Earlier on the card, Mullins’ Gentleman De Mee lowered the colours of 1-4 jolly Blue Lord in the Dublin Chase.

The 15-2 shot had too many gears for the odds-on favourite and put himself right in the picture for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.

He was slashed in 8-1 from 50-1 with William Hill, while Blue Lord was eased out to 6s having been as short as 5-2.

Mullins said: “I was surprised he was able to beat Blue Lord but he is a very talented horse.

“He really impressed me today and he has earned a crack at the Champion Chase.”

Mighty Potter cemented his position at the head of the betting for the Turners’ at Cheltenham with an easy Grade 1 win.

He jumped like an old pro under comeback king Davy Russell before quickening away on the run-in, and he is now a general 6-4 for his Festival target.

But the Facile Vega bubble was burst in the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle when he trailed home in last behind 14-1 winner Il Etait Temps.


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