'Jade' set for Irish Champion bid
The BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at next month's Dublin Racing Festival is the next port of call for Apple's Jade but Gordon Elliott insists a tilt at the Cheltenham equivalent in March is "very doubtful".
Elliott's seven-year-old mare has been in scintillating form this season with comfortable victories in the Hatton's Grace and the Christmas Hurdle and she bids for a Grade One hat-trick at Leopardstown on February 2.
With reigning champion Buveur D'Air beaten over Christmas - and Elliott's Samcro sidelined - there have been calls for the Meath trainer to change the Cheltenham target of Apple's Jade but he's not for budging.
"It's very hard to know how she'll go over two miles, it's a big ask but there's nothing to lose. If it doesn't work out, she'll more than likely go to the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham - she'll have an entry in the Champion but it'll be very doubtful that she'll run in it," Elliott said.
Samcro was one of 27 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle entries confirmed yesterday - a speculative entry - with Elliott revealing that last year's star novice hurdler will be back on the gallops next week as he continues his recovery from a lung infection.
"We will start him back riding out next Monday. He's been on a course of antibiotics but he's almost good to go now. But it will be day by day with him. We've made no plans yet, we'll see how he is when he does start real work." Elliott said.
Delta Work - vying for favouritism for the RSA Chase - will tackle the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival with Elliott insisting that "he only does what he has to do" following Grade One wins in the Drinmore and at the Foxrock track.
Stablemate Hardline, a Grade One winner at Limerick on St Stephen's Day, will join him but one Cullentra inmate heading straight to Cheltenham for a crack at the Gold Cup is Shattered Love, which came home with "sore shins" after disappointing in the Savills Chase.
Elliott expects Vision D'Honneur to be "the pick"of his two-mile novice hurdlers this season with the impressive Punchestown winner tackling the Grade One Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle on day two at Leopardstown.
A general 12/1 shot for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle in March on that back of that victory, defeat over Christmas shocked his trainer. "Vision D'Honneur could be the pick of them (his two-mile novices)," he said.
"I think he's a nice horse. I thought he'd win on his debut at Christmas but the first three all had runs under their belts. Jack (Kennedy) said he'd improve a bit for winning at Punchestown the other day, he was a bit green so hopefully there's more to come."
A rematch with Joseph O'Brien's Le Richebourg is on the cards for Mengli Khan in the Grade One Ward Solicitors Arkle and Elliott expects him to bounce back to his best. "A good few of mine ran below par at Christmas and Mengli Khan just never travelled. Le Richebourg looks the horse to beat but after being even money to win a Grade One, we're now a 10/1 chance," Elliott said.