Sunday 5th February - day two of the Dublin Racing Festival - belonged only to Honeysuckle. Now a month on from her (let's be honest, inevitable) Leopardstown defeat, we settle in for a UK farewell. Controversially diverted from a final crack at the Champion, she instead leads the 16:10 Mares Hurdle, where competition includes near unbeaten Love Envoi. Cheltenham, however, is not all hers today. Not all hers, because, hot on Ultima heels, and two before the Juvenile, it's time for a Constitution Hill procession. State Man and Vauban are brave to try. But, as Nico takes off, all suggests they'll be but floundering in his contrail.
Appropriately, starting the day - and the Festival - a race that primed Constitution Hill for his bulldozer season. The Novice Hurdle features High Definition (yup, the well framed steed who took on Baaeed at York), together with a Mullins string that sees Il Etait Temps and Facile Vega (disappointing in the Irish version five weeks back) take the trip. At 14:10, an Arkle field has Jonbon, El Fabiolo and Dystart Dynamo thrown in. Fresh from a Warwick shake-up, Jonbon returns with whim and vigour, looking to build on last year's Sandown success. El Fabiolo, too, given the Dublin taster, certainly isn't to be passed off.
It's Queen Mother day, and Energumene arrives to keep hold of his trophy. This is, however, Edwardstone's hour, as he seeks revenge for Editeur Du Gite's theft of January's Clarence House. The bruised foot on Alan King's warrior has healed since Trials Day, and he's passed x-rays in fine form. Elsewhere, Sir Gerhard steps up to three miles in the Brown Advisory.
At 16:10, in the cross-country, Delta Work has work to do, if he's to reclaim the Glenfarclas, twelve months after prising it unsportsmanlike from the grasp of little Tiger Roll. He stayed on in the January trial, but lacked umph for a final challenge, left relegated to third. At the backend of the day, in the 17:30 Champion Bumper, A Dream To Share sails over for owners Claire and Brian Gleeson (of RTÉ and ITV fame), while Run For Oscar tops betting in the 14:50 Coral Cup.
In the absence of Allaho, Shishkin looks set to buck a Mullins winning streak (he's taken consecutive renewals of the Ryanair since 2020). Henderson hopes were confirmed in a joyous display at Ascot three weeks ago, and the health scare-prone nine-year-old returns triumphant to right the wrongs of last year's Queen Mother slip up. A race previously, our friends at the Albatross Club will be cheering on another Seven Barrows entry, Captain Morgs, in the Pertemps. Captain Morgs, who served as pacemaker on an away day last week, looks to see off Steal A March for HM The King and HM The Queen Consort.
After a fairytale win for Gabriel Leenders, with Gold Tweet in the Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day, the tricolore could fly once more above Cheltenham in a shock win for French connections. Gold Tweet, however, lines up with tough opposition, in the 15:30 Stayers Hurdle.
And so the big day arrives. Last year, Rachael Blackmore was making history on A Plus Tard, as she became the first female jockey to take a Cheltenham Gold Cup. This year, however, their partnership looks consigned to the placings. With Irish Gold Cup winning Galopin Des Champs, and with accomplished Charlie Hall and King George winner Bravemansgame (given no easy passage at Kempton), the opposition is, surely, simply too tough. Ahoy Senor is in there too, proving doubters wrong in the Cotswold Chase two months back. And there could, in theory (should a drought be forecast) be another fairytale on the table, should Shark Hanlon's American Grand National winner, the green silked Hewick, head clear of the field.
Gala Marceau also runs today, building on a Juvenile Hurdle win at Leopardstown last month. Unlucky Leopardstown loser, stablemate Lossiemouth, is back to chase her once more in the 13:30 Triumph Hurdle, while the Albert Bartlett throws a wide open field like none other. Will the Mullins steamroller rattle on, decimating an only recently recovered Prestbury Park? Or could this be a welcome return to British winning ways, with Henderson scraps and a Gold Cup delivered to the hands of Paul Nicholls, fourteen years on from his last clasp?