Bryan Cooper: You have to be pretty confident about her chances
We face two pretty serious rivals in Limini and Whiteout if they are at their Grade 1 best – in fact, Whiteout beat Limini in the Mares’ Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, even if the second may not have been at her best that day – but Apple’s Jade is the best horse in here on official ratings and came back to somewhere approaching her juvenile best last time so you have to be pretty confident. She showed that this trip holds no fears for her when showing plenty of heart to edge out Vroum Vroum Mag in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse in December – we pulled well clear of the subsequent Galmoy Hurdle winner Shaneshill, too – and this will tell Gordon a lot more about where to aim her at the Festival. I just hope it’s a properly-run race and doesn’t turn into a tactical, messy affair.
He won his bumper in this kind of ground last spring and has run two solid enough races in maiden hurdles at Naas. That level of form leaves him with a bit to find with a couple of these, most notably Willie’s Castello Sforza who could prove hard to beat, but he is clearly very lightly-raced, so let’s hope there is more to come from him.
A bumper winner in heavy ground, she finished a decent second on her hurdling debut back in October. But she has clearly not gone on from there for various reasons – she was beaten a long way at Clonmel last week – and needs to come back to her autumn form to be given any chance. It’s possible, though, and I’ve seen stronger races.
Calin Des Ongrais
I rode him a couple of times last season and he came back to something like his best when second over 2m4f at Navan last time. He has gone up 3lb for that run, which doesn’t help, but he shaped as though he was well worth a first try at this longer trip at Navan, so hopefully that’s a positive. In fact, I think he could go close.
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