Apple’s Jade heads entries for Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival
Elliott filly will face a strong Mullins team as she seeks to defend her crown
Apple’s Jade, last year’s winner of the OLBG Mares’ Hurdles, heads 33 entries for this year’s renewal. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Apple’s Jade is the headline name among 33 entries for the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 13th. Gordon Elliott’s charge won the Grade One last year and has since gone unbeaten in four starts.
Willie Mullins has dominated this race since its inception in 2008, winning six renewals between 2009-14 with Quevega, as well as scoring with Glens Melody (2015) and Vroum Vroum Mag (2016), and the latter is among his nine entries this time.
Let’s Dance, Benie Des Dieux and Augusta Kate also have the option for Mullins, while Fergal O’Brien’s Colin’s Sister is among the leading contenders following her West Yorkshire Hurdle win earlier in the season.
Alan King’s Dusky Legend, who has been placed in the last two renewals of the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, and the Warren Greatrex-trained La Bague Au Roi also feature.
Sam Spinner tops 38 entries for the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival. Jedd O’Keeffe’s charge propelled himself to the head of the market with a comprehensive victory in the Long Walk Hurdle before Christmas and could face a number of also-rans from that race on March 15th.
Runner-up L’Ami Serge is in the mix for Nicky Henderson, while third-placed Unowhatimeanharry finished second in the Stayers’ last year and could try to improve on that for Harry Fry.
Mullins struck 12 months ago with the ill-fated Nichols Canyon and has entered Champion Hurdle hope Faugheen as well as Let’s Dance, Penhill and Bacardys as part of his eight-strong list of possibles.
Elliott has Apple’s Jade in the mix, although the Mares’ Hurdle has been talked of as the more likely option, with Supasundae in line to represent Jessica Harrington.
Alan King has given Yanworth an entry, although he has been campaigned over fences so far this term and has multiple Festival options.
King said: “He will go straight to Cheltenham, but I don’t know what race for. He definitely won’t run beforehand and we will keep him fresh and he will either go for the RSA Chase or the Stayers’ Hurdle.
“He is in very good form and has just been doing the odd canter and is ticking away. The Stayers’ Hurdle is worth fortunes this year and his form with Supasundae puts him right in the mix, so we will have to see what they want to do.”
Enda Bolger has paid tribute to cross-country stalwart Spot Thedifference following his death at the age of 25.
The JP McManus-owned gelding was a seven-times winner over the unique course at Cheltenham, striking gold at the Festival in 2005, with the late JT McNamara partnering him to each of those victories.
Spot Thedifference also counted two La Touche Cup wins at the Punchestown Festival on his CV, but Bolger pointed to his Cheltenham triumphs as the undoubted highlights of his 51 races under rules, with his last win in November 2007 a particularly memorable occasion.
He said: “He was a pleasure to train and he and Mr McNamara just got on so well together. The last race he won really sticks in the memory as after he passed the post, he slipped up and was down for a few minutes before he got up – JT said he was just having a lie down before going to the winner’s enclosure!”