Apple’s Jade headlines 30 entries for the £120,000 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, Tuesday, March 12th.
Apple’s Jade (Gordon Elliott IRE), who won the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (2m 3f 200y) in 2017, could only finish third last year as Benie Des Dieux gained the spoils and gave her trainer Willie Mullins a remarkable ninth victory in the race, which was first run in 2008.
Apple’s Jade, one of the 14 Irish-trained entries, is unbeaten this season and on her two most recent outings has recorded wide-margin successes in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, staged over two and a half miles and three miles respectively.
Her trainer Gordon Elliott said: “Apple’s Jade is in good form.
“She runs next in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival [Leopardstown, February 1st].
“She will do a bit of work next week and, all being well, that is her next target.
“She is a very good mare who does her best work on the track.
“Apple’s Jade is more than likely to go for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, a race she has won before.
“She has an entry in the Champion Hurdle, but I think it will be very doubtful that she will go there.”
Mullins’ six-strong team also includes rising star Laurina, though she is currently being aimed at the Unibet Champion Hurdle. The 2017 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle third Limini and Leopardstown scorer Good Thyne Tara are also engaged.
The home challenge for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle features prolific hurdler and chaser Lady Buttons (Phil Kirby), Roksana (Dan Skelton), who was second iat Aintree’s Grand National Festival last spring, as well as promising novices Queenohearts (Stuart Edmunds) and Mega Yeats (Ruth Jefferson).