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2019 Irish Champion Hurdle tips – 2/1 shot to make mincemeat of rivals at Dublin Racing Festival

Jack Kennedy riding Apples Jade during her third victory in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Our expert takes a look through the betting for the feature Grade One on day one of the Dublin Racing Festival and provides readers with his tips for Leopardstown on Saturday 2nd February.


The opening day of the Dublin Racing Festival features four Grade Ones, but none can match the history and prestige of the Irish Champion Hurdle. First won by the great Hatton’s Grace back in 1950, with Irish Champion Hurdle has been won by some of Ireland’s finest horses, with the names of L’Escargot, Flyingbolt, Dawn Run, Istabraq and five-time back-to-back winner, Hurricane Fly standing out on the glittering roll of honour.

Like-A-Butterfly was the last mare to beat the boys to the Irish Champion Hurdle and she could be emulated by Apple’s Jade (11/10 Unibet), who heads the betting for next month’s renewal. Gordon Elliott’s mare has been the star of the jumps season so far, following her history-making hat-trick of Hatton’s Grace Hurdle victories with a simple success here over Christmas, winning the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle without coming out of second gear.

Elliott has decided to give his stable star a test of speed ahead of a busy Festival season, dropping Apple’s Jade back to two miles for the first time since finishing second in the 2016 Fighting Fifth Hurdle. A proven stayer over three miles, Apple’s Jade will have to remind everyone that she still has the finishing speed for this shortest of trips, but she’s looked better than ever before so far this season and returns to Leopardstown as the one to beat.

Willie Mullins will likely play a strong hand as he tries to deny his former inmate, with Melon (5/2 Unibet) likely to lead the Champion Trainer’s battalion. Runner-up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Champion Hurdle at the previous two Cheltenham Festival, Melon is yet to really fulfill his promise, but there’s no ruling out this talented two-miler.

Supasundae (4/1 Unibet) shocked the Leopardstown faithful 11 months ago, reeling in Faugheen approaching the last before sprinting to a comfortable victory. Jessica Harrington’s charge repeated that trick at Punchestown in April, ending last season as Ireland’s top two-miler and, after a couple of strong placed efforts so far this year, Supasundae looks to have a genuine chance of defending his crown next month.

Supasundae (left) overtakes Faugheen (right) when winning the 2018 renewal of the Irish Champion Hurdle.

Petit Mouchoir (16/1 Unibet) could only finish last of the six in the Ryanair Hurdle and it’s hard to see how he will improve upon that result here. Tombstone (66/1 Unibet) hung on to place third after setting a fairly sedate pace for Samcro, but I can’t see him being good enough to reward his supporters again, in what looks like being a deeper race.

Sharjah has ruled the roost over two miles so far this term, comfortably beating Melon when they clashed over Christmas. Despite ground conditions being on the quick side at Leopardstown and at Punchestown for the Morgiana, the time of both races was much slower than standard and Sharjah could be found out in a truly run race.

Supasundae cannot be discounted and I’d be surprised if Jessica Harrington’s consistent sort didn’t give a strong account of himself. He will do his very best to cling onto APPLE’S JADE’S coattails, with the favourite likely to set her own fractions under Jack Kennedy. Yet, I can’t see anyone in the field being strong enough to live with this top-quality mare.

Apple’s Jade has always had bundles of pace. Two-and-a-half-miles is clearly her optimum trip and, although she is a dual-Grade One winner over three, the transition back to two miles should come much more naturally than the step up in distance. 

Elliott’s seven-year-old kept coming into season during the first half of last year and was clearly under-par because of that during the spring. Elliott is sure those problems are behind her now and the evidence she has provided so far this season suggests she is at the peak of her powers once again.

Kennedy will allow Apple’s Jade to stride on at the front, setting a sharp early pace on what is likely to be good ground, laying down a gauntlet to see if any of her rivals can pick her off – and I expect the answer to that question will be a resounding, no.

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2019 Irish Champion Hurdle tips – 2/1 shot to make mincemeat of rivals at Dublin Racing Festival

Our expert takes a look through the betting for the feature Grade One on day one of the Dublin Racing Festival and provides readers with his tips for Leopardstown on Saturday 2nd February.

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