Apple's Jade team keen on Champion tilt

Irish Champion Hurdle win has changed thinking

  • Sunday 03 February
  • News
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Gordon Elliott has given a strong indication that Apple’s Jade is likely to run in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Following her startling win in the Irish equivalent on Saturday, both Elliott and Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to his brother Michael’s Gigginstown House Stud, indicated she was likely to stick to the Mares’ Hurdle.

However, having slept on the decision and watched the replay again, Elliott seems to be warming to the idea of a clash with dual champion Buveur D’Air, who completed his preparations with a facile victory at Sandown on Saturday.

“Before yesterday 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,” Elliott told Racing TV’s Luck On Sunday programme.

“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.

“We’ll all have a view but whatever Michael says will go. Speaking to him this morning, the mare is OK after the race yesterday, we’d be mad not to give it a go.”

He went on: “I watched Buveur D’Air this morning, he’s obviously a very good horse who does what he has to do every day and is a horse I’d love to train, but we’ll take him on.

“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).”

Michael O’Leary added: “I would say we were borderline shocked. I thought she would genuinely get beaten yesterday, back to two miles on genuinely good ground, I thought they would take her off her feet.

“She did it very well, I think she was far more impressive than anybody yesterday thought she would be.

“The plan was we’d go to the Mares’ if it didn’t work out, but she did it so well we have to start thinking that maybe now we do go for the Champion Hurdle.

“I talked to Eddie and Gordon this morning and we decided that if she’s fit and well in six weeks and not in season, maybe let her go for the Champion Hurdle.

“Now we know she can run over two miles on quick ground, I don’t think she’ll beat Buveur D’Air, but let’s take him on anyway.

“She’s very good, but statistics saying she’s the first mare to win it for years are a bit skewed because maybe Annie Power would have won it, but Willie had so many good two-mile hurdlers she never ran in it.

“Because she’d been winning over two and a half and three miles on soft ground, we didn’t know how good she could be over two. She’s pretty good, whether she’s Champion Hurdle standard we don’t know, but we’ll give it a go.

“I’d rather lose trying to win a Champion Hurdle than lose trying to win a Mares’ Hurdle.”

Apple's Jade team keen on Champion tilt

Cheltenham 15:30, 12 March 2019

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