Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle Guide

Runners

This year's Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle looks set to be yet another Christmas present for racing fans to unwrap, just before 2pm on Friday 28th December.

Seven go to post for one of the features in Ireland over the festive period, including last year's stunning winner of this contest, and the only mare in the field - Apples Jade.

Having won this twelve months ago over a distance of three miles, many believed that Gordon Elliott's superstar would go on to battle the boys in the Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, a decision later blocked by Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary.

She went on to compete against her own sex, where she disappointed in the Mares Hurdle, but has come back this season in stunning form with wins at both Navan and Fairyhouse over 2m4f.

The 6yo steps back up to 3m, and a win here once again will surely result in further question's being asked over her future Cheltenham options. The owners at Gigginstown however have already declared she has unfinished business at Prestbury Park from last year, and believe that the Mares contest is her best chance of claiming first place prize money.

Standing in her way are six geldings - three horses from Champion Trainer Willie Mullins' yard - two of them owned by Rich Ricci. Firstly, Bapaume will look to improve on his third in this contest last year, and will be ridden by Noel Fehily. However, the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen looks to be the main threat to Apples Jade retaining her crown.

One of Mullins' stable stars from recent years, had a rare, mixed season last term but ended the campaign in style with an emphatic display in the Irish Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown. He dismissed stable companion Penhill by thirteen lengths - who had won the English equivalent at the Cheltenham Festival a month earlier.

This prompted many to believe there is extra life in Faugheen, and a campaign towards the British Stayers looks more favourable than a year novice chasing. The 10yo is back over the extended three miles, after his return over two, and many will be hoping for a solid run. Shaneshill completes the Mullins trio.

Another former Champion Hurdler - Jezki, lines up for Jessica Harrington. Early Doors - who represents the same ownership as the latter is bidding to become the first Joseph O'Brien trained winner of the race, along with Apples Jade's stablemate, and possible pace angle Cracking Smart, who completes the septet.

Trends

Apples Jade will be looking to become just the third dual winner of this contest since this races' inauguration back in 1996. Only Bannow Bay and Limestone Lad have managed to win this race more than once, whereas Apples Jade will also be hoping to become the first mare to do so.

In the last five years, this race has been dominated by usual messers Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins. Lieutenant Colonel trained by Sandra Hughes was the only horse to break that link since 2013.

Jockey wise, Ruby Walsh has three wins in this race - most recently with Vroum Vroum Mag in 2016. Barry Geraghty has two wins in this race - but none since 2004, whilst Davy Russell has won this twice - both of which in the last three years.

The last two renewals as well have both been won by Mares, with an extra one in the last ten years.

The last 10 winners have been rated between 145 and 164. Vroum Vroum Mag in 2016 was the shortest-priced winner in the last 10 years at 8/15, whilst Prince Of Scars at 10/1, was the longest-priced winner since 2007.

A good stat for Apples Jade is that favourites have a good record in this contest, and that Gigginstown Stud have owned 2 of the last 3 winners.

Let's hope for yet another Christmas Cracker!

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