Apple’s Jade is among six horses remaining in Saturday’s BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown at the confirmation stage.
Gordon Elliott’s brilliant mare is unbeaten in three starts so far this season, but all were over further and she has not run over two miles since being beaten a nose by Irving in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November 2016.
Her last outing was in the Christmas Hurdle over three miles on this course which she won by 26 lengths.
Elliott has also left in Tombstone and Farclas.
The last two winners of this race, Henry de Bromhead’s Petit Mouchoir and Supasundae from Jessica Harrington’s yard stand their ground.
Completing the sextet is the Willie Mullins-trained Melon, who was fourth to stable companion Sharjah in the Ryanair Hurdle over the course and distance last month on his first outing since falling three out in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle won by Supasundae in April.
Jockey Ruby Walsh is expecting Melon to put up an improved performance this weekend.
He told Racing TV: “I think he got tired on the approach to the last at Christmas and then got running again in the last 50 yards.
“He seems to have improved a lot. He’ll have to have improved a lot, because Apple’s Jade is going to be a hard nut to crack.
“Melon’s run behind Buveur D’Air (finished second) in last year’s Champion Hurdle is probably his strongest run.
“If he could reproduce that hopefully he can give Apple’s Jade a good race.”