Apple’s Jade blitzes field for Fairyhouse three in a row
Victory is a timely boost for trainer Gordon Elliott after Samcro’s defeat at Newcastle
Apple’s Jade and Jack Kennedy celebrate winning the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle for the third time in a row at the Fairyhouse Winter Festival. Photograph: PA
Even considering Apple’s Jade won her first Grade One by all of 41 lengths the superstar mare’s eighth and latest top-flight success might constitute the finest performance of her stellar career.
A swaggering 20 length rout of Supasundae at Fairyhouse on Sunday gave her three in a row in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.
Another hugely popular mare, Solerina, managed a similar hat-trick between 2003-05 and that one’s stable companion Limestone Lad is the only other horse to win the €125,000 ‘Winter Festival’ centrepiece three times.
This time Irish jump racing’s most important pre-Christmas date, with its triple Grade One programme, proved a timely boost for trainer Gordon Elliott after Samcro’s defeat at Newcastle the day before.
Elliott saddled a 61-1 four-timer which included another dramatic Grade One success with Delta Work in the Drinmore Novice Chase.
The local trainer dominated a even tighter finish to the Grade Three Juvenile Hurdle when Chief Justice short-headed his odds-on stable companion Coeur Sublime while the odds-on Envoi Allen is 10-1 for Cheltenham’s Champion Bumper after landing the last.
Delta Work’s rider Davy Russell wound up with a 112-1 hat-trick when the 100-30 favourite Wonder Laish landed the big €100,000 handicap hurdle.
But despite all that there’s no disputing the strongest impression of all was left by Apple’s Jade superb solo-show.
Considering it wasn’t solo for much of the race, and both she and Wicklow Brave, dominated from the front off a spanking pace, the manner in which the Gigginstown Stud star maintained the gallop to the line was hugely impressive.
Wicklow Brave may not be quite in his Irish Leger winning pomp anymore. But the fact remains that Apple’s Jade left a classic hero gasping from the third last flight.
Nothing else could get close and Jack Kennedy merely had to get her over the final two flights to firmly banish the memory of two runs last season which suggested a precocious young talent on the fade.
However a problem with coming into season at the wrong time was uncovered and clearly solved judged by this performance.
Apple’s Jade is now a 2-1 favourite to reclaim the OLBG Mares Hurdle crown at Cheltenham that she lost to Benie Des Dieux last season.
“You go for the races you think you can win and the easiest race I think is the Mares Hurdle,” Elliott maintained. “Horses like her are what the public want to see. Jack said he knew down the back there was plenty there. She loves a fight and is something else.”
Both Elliott and Michael O’Leary maintain Champion Hurdle ambitions for Samcro despite his Fighting Fifth defeat by Buveur D’Air.
“We think with a fast and up the hill (at Cheltenham) there’s a good chance he can get closer,” the Ryanair boss said. “It’s unlikely based on what Buveur D’Air did yesterday. But they’re animals, not machines.”
Delta Work was a Cheltenham festival hero last season for O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team and was cut to 12-1 for the 2019 RSA after getting the better of a Drinmore battle with JP McManus’s Le Richebourg.
Russell lost an iron after Delta Work’s mistake at the last but all that proven Pertemps Hurdle stamina proved vital in the closing stages.
Just four lined up for the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle and Ruby Walsh dominated from the front on Quick Grabim to win at evens. It gave Willie Mullins an eighth victory in the Grade One and earned the winner 14-1 quotes for the Supreme at Cheltenham.
Wonder Laish defied a 17lb penalty in the big handicap and his trainer Charles Byrnes is already thinking of a return to the flat in 2019 with the Chester Cup a possible target.