Irish Preview: Hatton's Grace Hurdle

Apple's Jade
There is Grade 1 action from Fairyhouse on Sunday
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Timeform preview the racing at Fairyhouse on Sunday, where Apple's Jade will bid to win the Hatton's Grace Hurdle for the third successive time.

The high-class card at Fairyhouse on Sunday features three Grade 1 races, including the Hatton's Grace Hurdle (14:40) which has been won by some big names in recent years, notably subsequent Champion Hurdle winners Hurricane Fly and Jezki.

This year's renewal looks an up-to-scratch one, too, with Apple's Jade, Supasundae and Bapaume all bringing high-class form to the table. The first-named, trained by Gordon Elliott, is bidding for her third straight win in the race, a feat only achieved by the James Bowe-trained Solerina who completed her hat-trick in 2005. Apple's Jade was a little disappointing at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals last season, a beaten favourite on both occasions, but she easily won the Lismullen Hurdle (for the second successive year) at Navan by 11 lengths from Jezki on her return three weeks ago, proving at least as good as ever. She is sure to have come on for that run and will likely be primed for this, so commands plenty of respect.

Supasundae stays this trip well, but both of his top-level wins in 2017/18 came over two miles, including the Punchestown Champion Hurdle by three and a quarter lengths from Wicklow Brave on his final start. He was 14 lengths behind Apple's Jade in this race 12 months ago and, while he has improved since, he often comes on for his first run of the season and could prove vulnerable again. Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas is an interesting runner, a good-topped gelding who should progress further this season. However, it is notoriously hard for second-season hurdlers in these types of events, and he would need to improve upwards of 10 lb on Timeform's scale to trouble the principals.

Earlier on the card at 13:05 is the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle - another race won by Hurricane Fly and Jezki in the past - and it's Elliott who again holds a strong hand. The pick of his two runners appears to be Commander of Fleet, who won on his sole outing in points and maintained his unbeaten record under Rules when winning a two and a half mile maiden hurdle at Punchestown two weeks ago with plenty in hand. He won despite showing obvious signs of greenness that day, wandering on the run-in when in full control, leaving the impression that he has much more to offer. There could be significant improvement to come from this raw four-year-old and he looks an exciting prospect; the drop back to two miles shouldn't be an inconvenience.

The Willie Mullins-trained pair of Aramon and Quick Grabim command plenty of respect; it's not always easy to work out which horse is the yard's leading hope, but while Aramon comprehensively beat Quick Grabim at Navan last time, the last-named made a bad mistake when just getting into his stride and is fancied to reverse the form here on 7 lb better terms. However, it could be Triplicate who proves the biggest danger. He won a couple of races at Galway and Listowel earlier in the season and was far from disgraced when finishing second to Quick Grabim at Tipperary in October, attempting to concede 4 lb to that rival. There should be more to come from Triplicate and he meets that rival on level weights now, so is expected to fare much better.

Thirty minutes later the Drinmore Novice Chase takes place (13:35), and it has the potential to be a cracker, with plenty of exciting types on show, but perhaps none more so than Delta Work. He progressed all the way through 2017/18 over hurdles, landing a gamble when winning the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival, and created a good impression when making a winning start over fences at Downpatrick four weeks ago. The early indications are that he is going to prove even better over fences, having to scrap to overcome one with experience, but most of all impressing with the accuracy of his jumping, and he is sure to have learnt plenty for that.

Stablemate Blow By Blow - also a Cheltenham Festival winner - is also accorded plenty of respect, but the Paul Nolan-trained Discorama makes most appeal of the remainder. He won in cosy fashion on his chase debut at Naas recently, third when forced to switch soon after the last but staying on nicely to lead inside the final 100 yards; he is another who should have much more to offer. Le Richebourg is another to consider. He looks like making up into a much better chaser than he was a hurdler, certainly judging by two near foot-perfect efforts over fences so far.

Other notable races on Sunday include the opening Grade 3 Juvenile Hurdle over two miles at 12:35, where Coeur Sublime is expected to take all the beating. He won his only outing on the Flat for Peter Fahy earlier this year and created a good impression on his first start for Gordon Elliott when making a winning start in this sphere at Downpatrick by one and a half lengths from Our Legend. The fact he was sent off odds-on that day gives some insight into the regard he is seemingly held, and he seems sure to improve for that initial experience, showing inexperience when asked to assert. He should prove too strong for stablemate Chief Justice and Humaniste, who also made a winning start over hurdles over C&D last time, winning with a bit more in hand than the margin suggests. The runner-up that day has since franked the form and Humaniste should prove the biggest danger.

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