Apple’s Jade is chasing a hat-trick of victories in the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and is among the 16 horses remaining in the €125,000 event on the second day of the Winter Festival at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The race is one of three Grade 1s on the day and Gordon Elliott’s star mare is bidding to join Limestone Lad and Solerina as a three-time winner. She has beaten a Willie Mullins runner to win the last two renewals and it is the champion trainer who looks set to provide the stiffest opposition again with Benie Des Dieux, Melon and Laurina also standing their ground. Samcro, which has an entry at Newcastle this weekend, also features among the Elliott contingent.
Supasundae missed the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle and could be in line to make his seasonal reappearance here for trainer Jessica Harrington while Joseph O’Brien could well rely on Early Doors.
O’Brien has high hopes of success in the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Drinmore Novice Chase where Le Richebourg, unbeaten in two starts over fences, heads the 13 remaining entries. Elliott has whittled his team down to five, headed by the Cheltenham Festival winners Delta Work and Blow By Blow.
Discorama is Paul Nolan’s big hope after his taking success at Naas while Sunday’s Navan winner Jetz is still in the race for Jessica Harrington.
Last year Gordon Elliott broke the Willie Mullins stranglehold on the Grade 1 BARONERACING.COM Royal Bond Novice Hurdle when winning the race for the first time and both trainers have a strong hand this time around. Commander Of Fleet is one of four Elliott horses still in contention while Mullins can choose from a team of eight that includes the impressive Navan winner Aramon, and Galway winners Royal Rendezvous and Sancta Simona.
Brace Yourself beat subsequent winner Defi Bleu to win at Down Royal earlier in the month and has been left in by Noel Meade while Joseph O’Brien has the option of running both Choungaya and Triplicate.
Barney O’Hare, Managing Director of BARONERACING.COM, said: “We are delighted with the strength in depth of the entries for one of the biggest days in the Irish jumps calendar which we are delighted to support. Our increased contribution to the BARONERACING.COM Hatton’s Grace Hurdle has been rewarded with a competitive field including the hat-trick seeking Apple’s Jade.
Peter Roe, Manager of Fairyhouse Racecourse, said: “This meeting is firmly established as the most important fixture in the first half of the season. After the unseasonably dry summer and autumn the ground is currently good, good to firm in places but with heavy rain this morning, over 6mm and more forecast, we are expecting good jumping ground for the weekend and similar to the ground Apple’s Jade won the BARONERACING.COM Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on in 2016 when it was good to yielding.”