Apple’s Jade can get the better of Limini in Punchestown showdown
Eve-of-Cheltenham clash enlivens otherwise unremarkable midweek meeting
Apple’s Jade on the way to winning at Punchestown last year. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The late injury which has ruled the former Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack out of Cheltenham is a sign of the nerve-wrecking lull before the festival storm during which caution rather than competition is usually the priority.
However, an otherwise unremarkable midweek Punchestown card will be enlivened by an eve-of-Cheltenham showdown between Apple’s Jade and Limini which on figures at least is likely to have only one outcome.
With less than three weeks to the festival’s OLBG Hurdle bookmakers already rate Apple’s Jade a 15/8 favourite with Limini at 11/2.
If that’s a transitory reflection of punting supply and demand, hard ratings indicate Limini faces an uphill task in Wednesday’s Listed Quevega Hurdle as she’s over half a stone wrong with her former stable companion.
However, Limini’s reputation is such that no one in the Apple’s Jade camp is going to take anything for granted.
The six-year-old justified many people’s banker status in last year’s mares novice at Cheltenham and if she was beaten twice afterwards, including by her stable companion, Whiteout, the form of her Liverpool third to Buveur D’Air and Petit Mouchoir looks a lot better now than it did then.
Willie Mullins’s spotless OLBG festival record – based on the remarkable mare honoured in the race title – possibly adds an extra layer to Limini’s reputation but there’s still no escaping the scale of her task against Apple’s Jade on what we know so far.
Time may prove that spectacular 41-length Aintree blitz to have been a glorious once-off but Apple’s Jade showed admirable grit to record her third Grade One success in December’s Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse.
Vroum Voum Mag may have been slightly unlucky that day but it still represents a level of form that Limini can still only aspire to.
The Mullins team could have better fortune in the maiden hurdle where Castello Sforza can make it third time lucky over flights.
Last season’s Cheltenham bumper fourth was undeniably disappointing at Leopardstown over Christmas but finishing behind Joey Sasa and Barra is still reasonable form in the context of his task now and there should be improvement to come.
Handicaps aren’t high on Gigginstown’s priority list but Cailin Des Ongrais does look to hold sound claims in a hurdle, while Mr Showtime can progress sufficiently from a decent Naas run behind Outspoken to score in the opener.