Gigginstown super mare Apple's Jade heads a field of six runners at Leopardstown this weekend in the Irish Champion Hurdle at this stage of the declarations with certain runners possibly being withdrawn closer to the contest.
The Gordon Elliott trained superstar is unbeaten in all her three starts this year picking up two Grade1 contests in a row and looking to make it three for the season on Saturday when she runs over two miles for the first time since finishing second at Newcastle in the 2016 renewal of the fighting fifth.
The seven year olds last outing saw her romp home at Leopardstown in the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle which was over a further mile than the contest on the weekend and she went on to land the spoils by an eased down 26 lengths.
She is set to come up against some familiar faces and the last two winners of this race are also entered into this race with Jessica Harrington's Supasundae who finished second behind Apple's Jade two starts ago and also the Henry De Bromhead Petit Mouchoir who won this back in 2017.
Willie Mullins also heads one runner in this race and it wouldn't be a stellar Irish Champion Hurdle without at least one of them. Leading his charge is the Cheltenham Festival Champion Hurdle runner up Melon who last time finished a staying on fourth behind some of these horses.
Ruby Walsh is set to ride the seven year old hurdler and he is expecting him to come a lot for his previous runs this season.
(Credit Racing TV) He said: “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.”