Betfred TV regular Frankie Foster thinks that it will either be Honeysuckle or Epatante who will emerge victorious in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Having been defeated in the Irish Champion Hurdle by State Man earlier this month, Honeysuckle’s owner Kenny Alexander quickly ruled out a return to the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, where she would have been competing for a third consecutive crown.
It was her second career defeat at Leopardstown and Alexander was quick to say that the 11-year-old would either be declared for the Mares’ Hurdle at the festival or she would be retired. He reiterated that there would be intensive talks held with trainer Henry de Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore about what would be best for Honeysuckle moving forward.
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Despite losing out to State Man last time out, Honeysuckle didn’t have a poor run by any means and Foster believes that she and Epatante are not on the decline as some people would have you believe.
Appearing on the latest Road to Cheltenham episode, he said: “It is one of the most exciting races that we’ve got. You’ve got Honeysuckle and Epatante, and they’ve both faced each other before in the Champion Hurdle.
“I don’t think either of those horses have declined, I think they are still as good as ever, it's just new horses have come onto the scene in State Man and Constitution Hill.”
Foster, host Matt Hulmes and guest Joel Ross were all in agreement that the Mares’ Hurdle is shaping up to be one of the most exciting races of the entire festival due to the quality on offer. There are some other interesting horses set to feature in this spectacle, including Marie’s Rock and Brandy Love, who has reportedly just been bought by Joseph and Marie Donnelly.
Foster thinks this latest development adds another intriguing twist to the Mares’ Hurdle but he is also not confident that Love Envoi has enough to compete with the likes of Honeysuckle and Epatante.
He added: “Joel’s been telling us for weeks that [Brandy Love] is the horse that everyone is talking about in Ireland. Being purchased ahead of the festival by the Donnellys, that makes it a bit more exciting.
“Love Envoi I don’t think I could throw into the mix with Honeysuckle and Epatante. Although she’s been brilliant and runs solid, I don’t think she can compete at the top.”
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Non-Runner No Bet | Odds Subject To Change