Which were the top three two-mile hurdlers in 2020/21?
According to Timeform, Honeysuckle (165) put up the best performance of the season in the two-mile hurdling division when winning the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, impressively, by 6½ lengths from Sharjah (164). Abacadabras (159) fell at the third flight in the Champion Hurdle, but proved no match for Honeysuckle in the Irish Champion Hurdle or the Punchestown Champion Hurdle on either side of that mishap.
In receipt of a 7lb mares’ allowance – controversially so, in the eyes of more than one learned observer – Honeysuckle carried all before her, winning four times at Grade 1 level to extend her unbeaten sequence to twelve races under Rules. The closest she came to being beaten was in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, over 2 miles 4 furlongs, at Fairyhouse in November on her reappearance; she won, for the second year running, but only just did enough to beat Ronald Pump and Beacon Edge by half a length and a neck.
Sharjah is, without doubt, a very smart hurdler and comfortably won the Matheson Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, for the third year running, before tackling Honeysuckle at the major festivals on both sides of the Irish Sea in the spring. Henry de Bromhead’s mare took his measure on all three occasions, by 19 lengths at Leopardstown in February, 6½ lengths at Cheltenham in March and 2¼ lengths at Punchestown in April, but Sharjah lost little or nothing in defeat.
Like Sharjah, Abacadabras, who went down by just a head to Shishkin in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, is clearly no slouch. In 2020/21, he managed to avoid Honeysuckle and/or Sharjah on just three of his seven starts, but won two of them, both at Grade 1 level. After a less-than-stellar start to the campaign, when turned over at odds-on at Down Royal on his reappearance in late October, he edged out Saint Roi and Jason The Militant in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown two weeks later for his first Grade 1 win of the season. The following April, he once again demonstrated very smart form when always doing enough to win the Aintree Hurdle with more in hand than the 1¼-length winning margin might suggest.