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Exciting filly Apple's Shakira back on Triumph trail at Cheltenham

Fri 26 Jan 2018

Apple's Shakira appears to face another straightforward task in the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.

A 17-length winner on her British debut at Cheltenham in November, Nicky Henderson's four-year-old filly returned to Prestbury Park a month later to strike at odds of 1-10.

Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, said: "Nicky really likes her and she's done nothing but good things since she came to him. We're all looking forward to seeing her back in action and running again. This looks an obvious race for her before the Cheltenham Festival."

Apple's Shakira is hot favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March and faces five rivals in this Grade Two, including Philip Hobbs' French import Elixir De Nutz.

Grade One runner-up Mulcahys Hill aims to get back to winning ways in the Ballymore Classic Novices' Hurdle.

Warren Greatrex's youngster was agonisingly denied by Poetic Rhythm in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury last time out.

Down slightly in grade, Greatrex believes he will feel the benefit of his last outing.

"He has improved since Newbury and I think that race has made a man of him," said the trainer.

"I suppose his biggest attribute is the way he goes through testing ground, whereas at the Festival conditions will probably go against him.

"In that respect, Saturday could be his Gold Cup. You know he is going to give them a hard race and it would be nice to have a look at the track."

Henderson has two big players in likely favourite Santini and Pacific De Baune, while Black Op and Slate House add further strength in depth.

Tikkanbar has won four of his six starts under Rules but faces an acid test in this sort of company.

Trainer Neil Mulholland said: "We were very happy with his performance on New Year's Day (at Cheltenham).

"He is very much an unknown quantity still, but he keeps winning, which is the main thing.

"Even his run in the Aintree bumper was very good because he was held up last and had boiled over before the race.

"We are enjoying him and hopefully he can continue to improve.

"He can cope with soft ground, so fingers crossed."

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