What The Champion Hurdle Means With The Inclusion Of Apple's Jade

What The Champion Hurdle Means With The Inclusion Of Apple's Jade

It means we have a Champion Hurdle to look forward to!

In recent years, one of the Cheltenham Festival's biggest contests - dictating the fastest hurdler around over the minimum trip of two miles, has had very poor build-up.

Although we had one of the closest finishes in recent times twelve months ago, for much of the season Buveur D'Air was an odds-on shot for the race as there was not much quality opposition coming through the ranks.

For most of the season he was winning in three or four runner fields, claiming Group One success and its' high-profile prize money without breaking a sweat.

His rivals simply haven't been good enough, and although that might not be their fault as Buveur D'Air could prove to be one of the greatest of all time and in a class of his own, it does not provide much of a betting opportunity for punters of the sport.

This sort of race always has one clear fancy it would seem - there inevitably appears to be one that is clearly better than the rest.

But winning at odds of 4/6 last year, many fans of the sport will think back to the likes of Annie Power, Hurricane Fly and even Faugheen that despite the fact they went off well-backed favourites, they represented enough value to back with money.

THIS YEAR however looks an exception, as Buveur D'Air proved he is beatable over Christmas, and will almost certainly not get everything his own way this time around.

THIS TIME, we could have as many as three star performers - two of those mares with weight allowances, in line to take the crown for 2019 and not just one dominating the ante-post market.

Apples Jade's inclusion could prove decisive as we could have one of the greatest match-ups in hurdling history.

Despite options to go for the Stayers, the Mares and this the Champion, the mare proved at Leopardstown on Saturday that speed is one of her finest attributes, with Michael O'Leary and Gordon Elliott seriously believing they finally have a horse that could win them both their first ever Champion Hurdle.

Questions have been launched that it would be silly to go back to the same race she finished a disappointing third in last year - because who will remember who won the Mares Hurdle in twenty or thirty years time?

However, O'Leary had pointed out before the weekend she has unfinished business there, and that connections want to target the race she has the best chance of winning. Boy oh boy, does she hold a strong chance in the Champion to rewrite the history books, as only the second mare to win the big one in the last twenty-five years.

Punters have been crying out for O'Leary to be brave, and it looks as though the Ryanair owner has granted their wishes after interviews at Leopardstown on Sunday.

We do not know how much longer Apples Jade's may have in the tank on the track due to possibilities of becoming a broodmare, and none of us are getting any younger. She has always had a great run of remaining injury-free, so this looks the obvious time to go for it when she well and truly in her prime.

Buveur D'Air versus Apples Jade, and potentially versus Laurina, who looks one of the brightest upcoming Mares in her generation. The Willie Mullins 6yo is unbeaten in five starts, and has never won less than an eighth length margin; proving her immense prowess.

A winner in last season's Mares Novice final, should all three clash, then we are in for an absolute treat on Day One of the Cheltenham Festival.

On paper, you would have to fancy either Laurina or Apples Jade, as both of those would be receiving weight from the current dual Champion.

Buveur D'Air has just been eased out to 6/4 after the addition of extra competition, whilst Apples Jade is in currently second favourite at 2/1. Laurina - seen just once this year, does have the option to drop to the Mares like Gordon Elliott's opposite number.

Just five weeks to go.