Gordon Elliott insists a tilt at the Champion Hurdle remains “very doubtful” for Apple’s Jade – despite confirming his star mare an intended runner in the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown next month.
She will head next for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Festival – having secured her third successive win in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse on her penultimate start, then her 13th career victory overall when defending her crown in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Given the Gigginstown House Stud-owned seven-year-old has proved more than a match for the boys several times, there have unsurprisingly been calls for her to take them on again at Prestbury Park in March, instead of again running in the Mares’ Hurdle – a race she won in 2017.
However, when asked about a tilt at the Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Festival launch, Elliott said: “She’ll have an entry, but I’d say it’ll be very doubtful.”
Apple’s Jade is a hot favourite to extend her winning run in the Irish Champion Hurdle on February 2, and Elliott is relishing the challenge.
He said: “She’s in good form at home. She’ll do a bit of work next Tuesday morning – and if all goes well she definitely runs (at Leopardstown).
“We’ll probably run Farclas and Tombstone in it as well – so all being well, we’ll have two or three runners.”
The Jessica Harrington-trained Supasundae saw off Faugheen when winning last year’s Irish Champion Hurdle and is on course to defend his crown.
The nine-year-old was a long way behind Apple’s Jade in the Hatton’s Grace, and was last seen chasing home Sharjah in the Ryanair Hurdle.
“Everything is going very well with him,” said Harrington.
“He ran here at Christmas, and was beaten by Sharjah that day. He didn’t really get the run of the race there.
“If it’s a good, true-run race – which I think it will be with Apple’s Jade in it – I think he’ll run a big race.”
Petit Mouchoir won the Irish Champion Hurdle two years ago, and spent last season over fences.
He blew away any cobwebs when last of six in the Ryanair Hurdle last month, and trainer Henry de Bromhead is expecting him to improve for that run.
He said: “I’d say we’ll aim for it (Irish Champion Hurdle). He’s in great form, and I was very happy with his first run back.
“He hadn’t run for a long time and he’s had his problems, but he won this two years ago and is a very good horse on his day.”
The first of four Grade Ones on the opening afternoon of the Dublin Racing Festival is the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors 50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff Novice Hurdle.
The likely favourite is Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen, a recent Grade One winner at Naas.
Elliott said: “I’ll hopefully run two of three in it – Battleoverdoyen, Commander Of Fleet and maybe Tintangle.
“Battleoverdoyen is a good horse. He jumps and stays and he’s a big chaser in the making.
“Commander Of Fleet ran in the Royal Bond (finished last of four). That was only two miles, and it was very short for him.
“He wasn’t beaten far in the race, and the step up in trip will suit him well.”
Joseph O’Brien confirmed Rhinestone a likely participant, saying: “He’d be in with an each-way chance, hopefully.”
Henry de Bromhead has multiple entries and mentioned Malinas Jack, Embrun Mitja and Honeysuckle as possible runners – while Harrington revealed Magnium is more likely to run than stablemate Press Conference, who prefers soft ground.
The Ladbrokes Dublin Chase this year carries Grade One status, and Harrington is considering the two-mile-one-furlong contest as a potential comeback target for 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Sizing John.
“We’ll see if the rain arrives. I’m looking to working him this weekend, but it depends on what the ground does in Navan,” said the Moone-based trainer.
“He seems to be in very good form and he did plenty this morning at home, but it’s just getting him away.
“Would I like to run him over two-miles-one for his first run? It would probably be better than running over three miles (in the Irish Gold Cup).
“We’ll just see what happens in the next fortnight.”
Should Sizing John run in the Dublin Chase, his possible rivals include De Bromhead’s pair of Ordinary World and Special Tiara.
The Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase is set to throw up a rematch between O’Brien’s Le Richebourg and Elliott’s Mengli Khan, who finished first and fourth respectively in a Grade One at the track over Christmas.
O’Brien said: “Le Richebourg has been in good form since Christmas and he goes there with a favourite’s chance, but this is a much tougher race.
“Us And Them, who was second to him the last day, will probably run again.”
Elliott said: “Mengli Khan seems in good form at home. Although we had a good few winners, a good few of them ran below par as well at Christmas.
“He never travelled at all in Leopardstown last time, like he did the time before.
“He was even-money favourite the last day for a Grade One, and he’s 10-1 now for this race.
“I’ll run him and probably run Duca De Thaix, who won the Dan Moore at the weekend.”