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Horse Racing - Cheltenham update: Honeysuckle run comes to an end

As times passes, the racing weekend just gone could be recalled as some kind of a passing of the guard moment following the first-ever defeat for Honeysuckle and a Tingle Creek demolition from Edwardstone.

Henry De Bromhead's incredible mare succumbed in her quest for a fourth Hatton's Grace crown at Fairyhouse on Sunday, while 24 hours earlier Alan King saw last season's Arkle winner announce himself on the biggest stage.

We review the weekend's major jumps actions and how it has impacted on the Cheltenham Festival betting.

Honeysuckle camp accept inevitable with grace

Sunday at Fairyhouse was a bit like the Honeysuckle fan club as crowds strode through the gates waiting to see the outstanding mare win her fourth Hatton's Grace Hurdle, and kick-start a season expected to bring her to March and a Champion Hurdle showdown with Constitution Hill.

It played out rather differently from the second last to the line in the big race. Rachael Blackmore brought the mare to the front but, after clearing the penultimate flight, they were swallowed up by Klassical Dream and Teahupoo - the latter going on to land the prize for Gordon Elliott on a day when he only narrowly missed out on winning all three Grade 1 contests.

For Honeysuckle, defeat presented itself on her 17th career start, though she was carried out on her sword in third spot, battling all the way to the line. She will, it seems, be given a chance to redeem.

"It's a horse race and unfortunately she got beaten and that's it," said De Bromhead.

"We've had some run with her for so long and there we go. They're going to get beaten one day. She's been incredible and fair play to the winner. It was always going to happen someday, that's unfortunately the reality of it, but we've had some go and it's not over either."

De Bromhead will be reluctant now to deviate from a well-managed plan, ensuring the Irish Champion Hurdle in February is next on the agenda. If she returns to winning ways there, a crack at Constitution Hill in March is still on.

Having shown fallibility for the first time, could it still be that Honeysuckle's biggest moment is ahead? She's now 8/1 for the Cheltenham contest, with Constitution Hill at 1/3.

Edwardstone lays down the law in Tingle Creek

Alan King had to be patient in getting Edwardstone back to the racecourse, with unseasonably dry conditions meaning he missed a couple of intended comebacks in November.

Sandown on Saturday was optimal and Edwardstone left his trainer 'blown away' with his stylish success on his first start in open Grade 1 company.

With last year's winner Greaneteen and superstar Shishkin dominating the head of the market for Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson respectively, Edwardstone was under the radar to a degree.

Tom Cannon's partner was held up and moved to challenge at the second last before powering away from Greaneteen to win by nine-lengths, with Shishkin laboured behind in third.

"The Tingle Creek is one of my favourite races and I think I was just blown away with how well he did it," said King.

"He's a big heavy horse, that's why we couldn't risk him earlier in the year," explained King. "I know there's been a lot said about it but we do know what we're doing with these horses. I get slightly miffed by some of the comments."

King added: "I had in the back of my mind that we'd probably go to Kempton for the Desert Orchid next. We're obviously working back from the Queen Mother.

"Whether we have one or two runs before we'll see and obviously the Game Spirit will also come into it. I wanted to get today out of the way and he's exceeded my expectations."

Edwardstone is now 5/2 second-favourite in the Queen Mother Champion Chase betting behind defending champion Energumene at 5/4, while Shishkin is 16/1 and Greaneteen is 25/1.

Impressive novice wins at Fairyhouse

The Gordon Elliott-trained Mighty Potter is 5/1 for the Turners Novices' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival after going a long way towards proving himself a top-class novice chaser in landing the Grade 1 Drinmore at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

A dual-Grade 1 winner as a novice hurdler last season, Mighty Potter and Kennedy went to the front after stablemate Three Stripe Life was pulled when Davy Russell lost his irons after a bad mistake in the back straight.

His jumping wasn't always perfect either, but Mighty Potter had plenty in reserve to fend off experienced Gaillard Du Mesnil from the Willie Mullins squad.

Meanwhile, the Royal Bond went to trainer Barry Connell's Marine Nationale under a wonderfully patient ride from rookie Michael O'Sullivan, at 22 partnering his first top-level winner. Elliott's Irish Point looked to have the race won, but Marine Nationale got there in the final strides to win.

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Jonbon spot on at Sandown

Nicky Henderson confirmed after Jonbon's easy victory in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown on Saturday that he will stick to two miles this season and he's now 6/4 to win the Arkle at Cheltenham.

Jonbon's jumping was superb under Aidan Coleman in the Sandown Grade 1 and when Boothill came briefly to have a go at him, the JP McManus-owned runner powered away to make it 2-2 over fences.

His trainer feels he'll get further in time but, for now, is happy at the minimum trip.

"He's a genuine two-miler at the moment, but I'd love to find out how far he can stay," said the six-time champion trainer, before adding: "Don't worry, we're not going anywhere else at the moment - we'll stay at two miles for now because he's so quick. He's doing everything right so far."

Facile Vega fuels the hype

Like his mother Quevega before him, Facile Vega looks set for a fine career jumping hurdles following his effortless success at Fairyhouse on Saturday.

The outstanding bumper performer of last season, he was long odds-on to win his maiden over hurdles and did so with aplomb under Paul Townend.

He's 11/10 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham and Ireland's champion trainer believes he could be a little bit special.

"I was very happy how he jumped, he hurdled like a handicapper. Paul was happy that he was well within himself the whole way round. He was very slick for a horse having his first run over hurdles and making his own running.

"It was very pleasing and we will look at Christmas now."

Noble Yeats opens Gold Cup door

Last season's Grand National hero Noble Yeats returned to Aintree on Saturday and won the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase emphatically for Emmet Mullins in the hands of new regular rider Sean Bowen.

Two-time Aintree scorer Ahoy Senor was favourite for Lucinda Russell and was fully engaged in battle with eventual second Dashel Drasher when Noble Yeats absolutely flew by them between the final two fences.

It was a hugely impressive display and Noble Yeats got a quote of 12/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race his trainer now sees a realistic option.

"We have the option of the Gold Cup and we'll keep options open as long as we can. He's opened the door a bit wider after that and whether we can get our heads through it is another thing. It's still a strong possibility," said Mullins.

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