Apple’s Jade will face five rivals when she bids for back-to-back victories in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on Sunday.
Gordon Elliott’s star mare claimed this Grade Two prize on the way to successfully defending her crown in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse last season, and the Cullentra handler is keen to follow the same route.
Elliott has an interesting second string to his bow in Dortmund Park, who was last seen winning the Grade One Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival in April.
Henry de Bromhead’s dual Grade One winner Identity Thief is a third contender for Gigginstown House Stud.
Jessica Harrington’s 2014 Champion Hurdle hero Jezki, the Denis Cullen-trained Arctic Fire and Eddie Harty’s high-class chaser Coney Island complete the small but select field.
The Lismullen Hurdle is the first of two Grade Two events on Sunday’s card, the other being thetote.com Fortria Chase.
The five-strong line-up for that race is headed by Enda Bolger’s Ballyoisin, who reverts to fences after winning a valuable handicap hurdle at Listowel on his latest appearance.
With Great Field not declared, champion trainer Willie Mullins relies on consistent mare Listen Dear – who receives weight from each of her rivals.
Elliott’s Doctor Phoenix, De Bromhead’s Ordinary World and Harrington’s Rock The World are the other hopefuls.
Grade Three honours are up for grabs in the For Auction Novice Hurdle.
Elliott has claimed this prize in each of the last two years, with Labaik and Mengli Khan respectively, and his chief contender this season is Felix Desjy – who made an impressive hurdling debut at Galway last month.
He is joined by stablemate Make My Heart Fly, while Mullins is also double-handed – with Quick Grabim and Aramon both in the mix.
De Bromhead’s course-and-distance winner Daybreak Boy and Choungaya, from Joseph O’Brien’s yard, add further strength in depth.