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Jade team keen on Buveur D’Air clash after Apple’s announces Champion intentions at Leopardstown

Jonathan Vine in News 4 Feb 2019
Apple's Jade parades in front of the Cheltenham crowd after winning the Mares' Hurdle in 2017.

Apple’s Jade looks set to take on Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle, after connections intimated a change of direction could be in order after her romp at Leopardstown.

Saturday’s card at Leopardstown featured several stand-out performances, but none were more impressive than Apple’s Jade. Gordon Elliott dropped his star mare back to two miles for the first time since losing out to Irving in the 2016 Fighting Fifth, but the ten-time Grade One winner took the transition in her stride, powering home from the front of the field to beat Supasundae by a whopping 16 lengths.

Both Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown head-honcho, Michael O’Leary were adamant before her outing that the Mares’ Hurdle was Apple’s Jade’s number one objective at the Cheltenham festival. However, after beating the handy two milers in Supasundae and Melon in devastating fashion, it seems a change of plan could be in order.

"Before yesterday (Saturday) 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 said to Racing UK on Sunday morning. 

"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," Elliott said.

"We'd be mad not to give it (The Champion Hurdle) a go. 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."

Despite Elliott’s obvious keenness to switch, the final decision rested on the shoulders of Michael O’Leary and the Gigginstown boys. On Saturday, few experts expected the stoical boss of Ryanair to change his original plans. Yet, in an interview with the Racing Post on Sunday, it seems Elliott and O’Leary are on the same wave-length.

"The situation is, we were genuinely surprised by how well she ran yesterday," O’Leary said on Sunday.

"I thought she'd be beaten by Melon – coming back to two miles on ground that was too fast for her given she stays three miles – but she was so good you’d have to look at the Champion Hurdle on the back of that.”

"We won’t make a decision until Cheltenham week and we'll see how she is, how everyone else is and what else we have going, but if she is all right and the ground is okay, it’s probably 75-25 she’d run in the Champion Hurdle.”

"Would she beat Buveur D’Air? Probably not, but she's entitled to try now. If she's in the same form in five weeks' time, it would be very difficult not to let her take her chance. If you are going to lose, I’d rather lose trying to win a Champion Hurdle than a Mares’ Hurdle, now that we know she can run a fast two miles."

Initial bookmaker reactions were to clip Apple’s Jade in from a double-figure price into around 3/1 for the Champion Hurdle, while installing Elliott’s queen as the 4/7 favourite for the Mares’ Hurdle. However, after her team expressed their Champion Hurdle intentions, bookmakers were forced to alter their odds again. 

Paddy Power now list the 2017 winner as a 5/2 shot in the Mares’ Hurdle betting, while cutting Apple’s Jade into 15/8 joint-favouritism in the Champion Hurdle, alongside the two-time defending king.

*Current Cheltenham Festival betting with Paddy Power*
12/3/19 Champion Hurdle
15/8 Buveur D’Air, Apple’s Jade, 9/2 Laurina, 9/1 Sharjah, 10/1 Verdana Blue, 12/1 Brain Power, Espoir D’Allen, 14/1 Bar

12/3/19 Mares’ Hurdle
5/2 Apple’s Jade, Benie Des Dieux, Laurina, 8/1 Limini, 10/1 Roksana, 12/1 Stormy Ireland, 16/1 Bar

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Jade team keen on Buveur D’Air clash after Apple’s announces Champion intentions at Leopardstown

Apple’s Jade looks set to take on Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday 12th March, after connections intimated a change of direction could be in order after her romp at Leopardstown.

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