horse racing

Three to follow from the Weekend: 3rd, 4th & 5th February…

And now it’s the Dublin Racing Festival (DRF) that is firmly in the form book… another vital checkpoint as we barrel our way headlong towards the 2023 Cheltenham Festival

In the wake of the DRF news broke late yesterday evening that reigning and dual Champion Hurdler HONEYSUCKLE will NOT be going to the race this year, she will be passing up the chance to go for Champion Hurdle immortality, and will instead be heading to the Mares Hurdle (a race Honeysuckle won in 2020)… which in my opinion is an insane choice! 

I’d get it if Honeysuckle had returned this season and was struggling away out the back and finishing with the stragglers… but she isn’t! She was beaten just under 5L by STATE MAN on Sunday and finished around 2.5L behind TEAHUPOO on seasonal debut, Teahupoo who went out and won a G2 by 15L next time out!

It’s madness to pass up a Champion Hurdle hat-trick opportunity… MADNESS! Something I had a bit of a rant about in Champion Hurdle Racing Podblast episode, which you can catch here if you are still to listen (Honeysuckle bit is around 7 minutes in if you just want to skip to that part).

I’ll have more on the DRF in tomorrow’s Queen Mother Champion Chase PodBlast (follow the PodBlast here so you don’t miss future episodes) and I will also have a free blog later on this week looking at DRF runners and how they get on at the Cheltenham Festival.

For now though it’s the latest set of ‘Three To Follow From The Weekend‘ runners…


Three to follow from the Weekend: 3rd, 4th & 5th February…


Horse Profile - Jockey Colours RED ROOKIE (E Lavelle)

3rd in C2 Handicap Chase – 145 Sandown (Saturday 4th Feb) 

A decent effort back down in trip and he’d be worth keeping on the radar going forward as he is now in his Prime Months and I’d have Prime Conditions for him as…

Jan-March | 2m1f or less = 3F1111 (4/6, 1p – all 4 career wins – F came when outclassed in the G1 Arkle)

He went down 1lb to OR 137 for this effort and that should be a mark he can defy, providing they don’t set their sights too high with him.


Runner Jacket MONMIRAL (P Nicholls)

4th in G1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase – 220 Sandown (Saturday 4th Feb) 

Seems to be struggling a little bit to get his head in front as he’s not won since landing the G1 Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in 2021 (7 runs ago).

Paul Nicholls seems to think he’ll be a horse that needs a trip in time and 3m+ will be his preferable distance so it could just be that he needs this season to strengthen up and find his stamina boots.

He was dropped 3lb for this run (OR 148 down to OR 145) and that makes him of potential interest in a handicap chase of some sorts before seasons end. I think in time he will prove plenty better than this effort, for all it was a solid enough figure he posted on the Proform Speed Figure scale, in what I suspect will prove to be a strong renewal of the Scilly Isles.


Horse Profile - Jockey Colours FIDELIO VALLIS (H Derham)

2nd in C3 Scottish Champion Chase – 155 Musselburgh (Sunday 5th Feb) 

A fine first effort for his new trainer Harry Derham and he’s picked up a well-handicapped type here and one who is currently in his Prime Months…

2111111 (6/7, 1p) in the Feb-May period compared to 4722442F (0/8) all other months

He’s a horse I had previously noted when with Paul Nicholls as… ‘possibly doesn’t like Very Undulating tracks – possibly best on RH tracks (can jump/hang to right)

…and I’d still hold those thoughts.

He should be an interesting one for Derham and one who should come on plenty for Sunday’s run, being it was his first for 410 days.

Cheers – Ben (NTF)

p.s. you can grab all previous NTF Blog posts HERE

11 responses to “Three to follow from the Weekend: 3rd, 4th & 5th February…”

  1. Whilst I can understand the faff about Honeysuckle, do connections really think that she will beat Constitution Hill ? I don’t thinks so. HOWEVER as the DRF showed, you should never be frightened of just one horse (although State Man is no slouch) Maybe they want to go out on a win. Although she will have to be close to the top of her game to win the Mares Hurdle. Either way she has been a wonderful horse

    • Hi Steve

      Absolutely spot on… you should never be afraid of one horse! We all suspect she will be bang against it trying to beat Con Hill, given what we’ve seen from the Henderson horse… but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t try and at the very least give her a crack at going for the hat-trick… however slim that chance is… the only way she has a 0% chance of winning the race is if she doesn’t run it!!

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. I’m looking forward to your free blog on the DRF. Regards Honeysuckle, I’d have sent her to the paddocks already as had Constitution Hill run in the Champion Hurdle (and not the Supreme) last March he would probably have won with half-a-dozen lengths to spare. On a general theme: I’ve been informed that this season there have been 35 G1 races, and 25 have been won by French-breds. Lydia & Ruby (sorry to mention your competition) have been asking where are all the Irish-bred horse’s going (there’s plenty being foaled) or are they becoming uncompetitive?

    • Hi Ian

      Yes… French Breds seem to be holding sway at the minute in the big races… hard to know if that will continue long term though? Might just be where things are at just now and they’ll swing back towards Irish bred horses in time (or at least level out)… could also be a Mullins thing as well as plenty of his are French bred and he also tops the G1 list this season… so may be more a trainer thing than a breeding thing…possibly… something to keep in mind anyway…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  3. I for one am really quite relieved Honeysuckle has been revealed as the fraud she is!! I always felt she was massively overrated and had beaten very few If any Grade 1 horses in her career. Just to convince myself I looked back through all of Honeysuckle’s form and literally DRF on 5 Feb was THE first time she’d come up against a proper Grade 1 horse. Pretty much ALL of her form is just beating up really average at best Grade 2 horses. She really has to go down as one of the most overrated horses ever to win the CH.The Irish just got all dewy eyed about her coz she was an unbeaten mare. Her two CHs and Epatantes were three of the worst ever quality renewals of that great race. This year is a proper renewal!! Now that will be a race to savour.

    Rant over and point well and truly proven today!

    Vince M( firmly off the fence!!)

    Ps. Lots of analysis of last two weekends results required!!!

    • Hi Vincent

      At the end of the day she could only beat was put in front of her… As I say, I think her chances of winning a third Champion Hurdle are slim (given the opposition) but they are ZERO if she doesn’t go for it! I just don’t see why they wouldn’t 1) let her defend here double crown and 2) give her (however slim) the chance of reaching Champion Hurdle immortality…

      Last thing we need is Con Hill and State Man taking on 2 or 3 opponents as everyone has run scared of them…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

      • Yes that’s a really fair point Ben, she has just been around in a very weak period for 2m hurdlers. Dont get me wrong I am not saying she is a poor horse, she is clearly very decent and one of THE best mares we’ve seen but I just felt there was a lot of emotion in the assessment of her quality rather than hard form analysis and fact.

  4. On Monmiral Nicholls novice chases 5/6 is I think something miss with direct comparisons to say WPM. WPM ignoring the weirdness that allows old horses to be ‘novices’ and the arcane rule you can be a novice till you win but his are often older. The Halcyon days where Florida Pearl went chasing from bumpers (albeit wasting a year as a novice) or even Vautour have been replaced with often 7 or 8 or even 9 year old novices (Faugheen was 12 but that was slightly different).

    It’s bizarre as these horses don’t come from bumpers but Points. They jump fences at 4. Or if they’re French often hurdles at 4. If they arrive as novices they spend a year strengthening up then in bumpers then novice hurdles then novice chasing plus maybe a year for injury.

    According to Simon Rowlands Hurdlers peak 7-8 and chasers at 8-9 so the often Hendo or Mullins or others horses reach championship chases especially past their peak having feasted on often empty novice divisions avoiding team mates. Given many were jumping fences at 4 this is great for trainer fees and terrible for the sport and frankly makes a mockery of novice racing.

    How many horses lose their form or get injured waiting for Willie to throw them in against weak competition for their age group?

    He’s a great trainer and no doubt his owners agree with his strategy (or they have to get another trainer!) however when I see a 7yo win a Supreme or an 8yo a G1 novice chase I am reminded that age 10 & up is near death at Cheltenham – these horses likely spell in the sun is brief. Whereas at 10 a weak G1 horse by some standards Frodon has done the effing lot… King George, Fez wins, and been ridden by Bryony with a Mill’ in earnings.

    • Possibly all comes down to there being too many races… too many options… and plenty of opportunities for the top horses to avoid each other until the spring festivals roll around…

      I suppose one option would be that if a horse comes from points then it shouldn’t be eligible to run in bumpers, has to go straight over hurdles (or fences if they want)… Bumpers make sense for store horses that have never seen a racetrack before but I agree it’s strange that P2P horses can then almost ‘restart’ their career in bumpers, almost like what they’ve done in their P2P is instantly forgotten…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

    • Indeed Clive… but it would be one hell of a boring world if we didn’t have an opinion… or weren’t allowed one because we didn’t pay the bills 😉

      Ben (NTF)

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