Apple’s Jade and Jer’s Girl clash for a third time at Navan

Davy Russell confident he will be cleared to ride at weekend after getting X-ray results

Bryan Cooper on board Apple’s Jade at Punchestown Racecourse. Apple’s Jade is the star turn among 16 weekend runners for Michael O’Leary’s Giginstown Stud team through both Navan and Saturday’s action at Naas. Photograph: Inpho

Bryan Cooper on board Apple’s Jade at Punchestown Racecourse. Apple’s Jade is the star turn among 16 weekend runners for Michael O’Leary’s Giginstown Stud team through both Navan and Saturday’s action at Naas. Photograph: Inpho

 

The jumps game has the stage to itself once again and a mouth-watering clash of those star mares Apple’s Jade and Jer’s Girl at Navan on Sunday indicates how the big boys are coming out to play.

Apple’s Jade is the star turn among 16 weekend runners for Michael O’Leary’s Giginstown Stud team through both Navan and Saturday’s action at Naas.

Irish racing’s other top owner, JP McManus, numerically tops his great rival by one entry and is entitled to believe Jer’s Girl can make it third time lucky against Apple’s Jade in the Grade Two Lismullen Hurdle.

However, both are trumped by Gordon Elliott’s 22 starters over the two days as normal service appears set to resume at the top of the trainer’s table.

The tussle for the trainers title between Elliott and Willie Mullins was a dominant thread through last season and the old rivals are already neck and neck at the top of the championship table with both on the verge of notching a century of winners for the current campaign.

Paul Townend steps in for five Mullins rides as Ruby Walsh continues his recovery from a hand injury.

Daryl Jacob will be on board the Grade One-winning hurdle Footpad as he makes his debut over fences on Sunday. The England-based jockey appears set for a hectic afternoon as he is declared to ride at Sandown less than an hour and a half before the Navan contest.

Footpad is one of a significant number of potentially top-class novices taking their first steps of the winter campaign this weekend but it will be the third clash between Apple’s Jade and Jer’s Girl that takes centre stage.

It’s almost two years since O’Leary’s star edged out her rival on her Irish debut and the outcome at Cheltenham last March was inconclusive with Jer’s Girl crashing out at the third last in the mares hurdle when still travelling well.

Onslaught

Apple’s Jade memorably withstood a Mullins onslaught at the end of that race and romped home subsequently at Punchestown.

It’s worth recalling though that the first of her three top-flight wins last season, in the Hatton’s Grace, came after two surprise defeats.

Maybe that had something to do with O’Leary’s high-profile move from Mullins and maybe now that Elliott knows Apple’s Jade much better she will strip sharper for her first start of the season.

However, Jer’s Girl is definitely race fit, is suited by the race conditions and it’s worth forgiving her tame Tipperary effort last time as it came shortly after an impressive win on the flat at Roscommon.

Navan’s other Grade Two is the Fortria Chase in which the Elliott-O’Leary combination has both Clarcam and The Game Changer. If ground conditions turn very testing though it could suit the northern stayer Fine Rightly who usually travels well in his races.

Davy Russell is confident he will be okay for half a dozen rides at Naas after X-rays revealed he hadn’t broken anything in his foot after a fall at Thurles on Thursday.

The season’s leading rider’s Naas book includes the French import northern stayer Fine Rightly , a winner on the flat and over hurdles in October of last year, in the Grade Three Fishery Lane Hurdle. Meri Devie’s fillies allowance could prove the crucial factor in this race.

Pallasator’s first start over flights will be the focus of a lot of attention in a maiden hurdle but the former high-class flat horse takes on some notably promising bumper types including Paloma Blue.

Saturday’s Beginners Chase could potentially throw up a real top-notch novice for the rest of the season. Bacardys can boast Grade One winning hurdles form while Snow Falcon has reportedly been a revelation in schooling. De Plotting Shed sets a high standard though after his recent Galway run.

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