Apple’s Jade heads 30 entries for the £120,000 Grade 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on the opening day of The Festival, Tuesday, March 12.
Gordon Elliott’s star mare, winner of the OLBG Mares’’ Hurdle in 2017, could only finish third last year as Benie Des Dieux gained the spoils and gave her trainer Willie Mullins a remarkable ninth victory in the race, which was first run in 2008.
Apple’s Jade, one of the 14 Irish-trained entries in the Cheltenham race, is unbeaten this season and on her two most recent starts she recorded wide-margin successes in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, staged over two and a half miles and three miles respectively.
Willie Mullins’ six-strong team includes rising star Laurina, though she is currently being aimed at the Unibet Champion Hurdle. The 2017 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle third, Limini, and Leopardstown Grade 3 winner Good Thyne Tara are also engaged.
The British challenge for the race features prolific hurdler and chaser Lady Buttons from Phil Kirby’s yard, the Dan Skelton-trained Roksana, and promising novices Queenohearts (Stuart Edmunds) and Mega Yeats (Ruth Jefferson).