Debates about the best race of the Cheltenham Festival 2019 will continue to rage but for many the argument has now been settled.
The Champion Hurdle had looked at one stage like a one horse race with Buveur D'air set to start as a red hot favourite for a third win on the bounce but the picture has changed significantly since the start of the year.
First, Laurina hacked up on seasonal debut at Sandown to confirm herself as a huge talent and then second, we saw Apple's Jade scorch to victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the weekend in one of the performances of the season.
Both brilliant mares are now potential runners in the day one Cheltenham Festival feature to take on the defending champion in a contest which is shaping up to be a classic.
Initial suggestions that Apple's Jade would stay down the mares route at Prestbury Park were widely ridiculed after the way the 7-year-old beat the boys during the Dublin Racing Festival, but thankfully owner Michael O'Leary has now said he is inclined to let her take her chance in the big one in March.
Buveur D'air remains the one to beat as the two time winner of the famous race and he too looked in good shape on Saturday as he cruised to victory in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown. The JP McManus owned horse had tasted defeat over Christmas when beaten by Verdana Blue at Kempton but looked back to somewhere near his best this weekend to set up a clash with the two Irish stars in Gloucester.
The Champion Hurdle has not necessarily been the strongest contest at the Festival in recent years but with the three horses at the head of the current market all potential runners this season, it could be that the highlight of the week is the feature race on Tuesday 12th March,
Any opportunity to look back on Apple's Jade scorching to victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle...