It’s amazing what can happen after a good night’s sleep and having initially deemed it a long shot, Gordon Elliott indicated yesterday that Apple’s Jade will “likely” take on reigning champion Buveur D’Air in next month’s Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Apple’s Jade (8/11 favourite) was a scintillating 16-length winner of the Grade One BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle on Saturday at Leopardstown, but Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to owners Gigginstown House Stud, rated it a “long odds-on shot” that the superstar mare would stay against her own sex in the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The racing world was awash with cries for the 10-time Grade One winner to tackle back-to-back winner Buveur D’Air – who also completed his preparations with a facile victory at Sandown on Saturday – and connections look to have changed their tune to set up a mouth-watering duel.
“Before yesterday (Saturday) I would have said that the Mares’ Hurdle was the race to go for, but she ran in the Mares’ Hurdle last year and got beat. Talking about it last night and looking at the re-runs this morning, I’d prefer to get beat in a Champion Hurdle than a Mares’ Hurdle,” Elliott said.
“We’d be mad not to give it a go. Up until yesterday I would have been very nervous, but to do what she did yesterday was very good, she loves a battle and I think Cheltenham suits her better than Leopardstown. Nothing is concrete, but I’d say it’s likely (to be the Champion Hurdle).”
Apple’s Jade is as short as 13/8 for the Champion Hurdle – where she will receive a 7lb weight allowance – and is vying for favouritism with Buveur D’Air, while Willie Mullins all but confirmed that his exciting mare Laurina (7/2) will also be aimed at the hurdling showpiece.