Apple’s Jade impresses on return from long layoff at Navan

Gordon Elliott scores a four-timer including Clarcam who could be set for retirement

Apple’s Jade won the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on her return to the track after almost 200 days. File Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Apple’s Jade won the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on her return to the track after almost 200 days. File Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

 

Sunday’s Navan card was light on numbers but trainer Gordon Elliott left no doubt about being the central figure with a four-timer for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud.

It included a hat-trick in the three Graded events and brought Elliott’s weekend tally for O’Leary to six following another pair of winners for the Ryanair boss at Naas the day before.

Jack Kennedy rode both of those and the 19-year-old partnered Sunday’s Graded hat-trick too, including an impressive return to action for Apple’s Jade. Lisa O’Neill concluded Elliott’s and O’Leary’s hugely successful weekend by landing the bumper on Invincible Cave.

Last season Elliott turned his local track in particular into a near personal playground including when saddling a 41,276-1 six-timer on Troytown day.

That fixture takes place again in a fortnight and Elliott’s opposition got a reminder of how the momentum that took him to within a whisker of dethroning Willie Mullins as champion trainer last season is back in full steam.

Both men are already within touching distance of notching centuries of winners for the new campaign but on a day when just 52 runners were spread over seven races worth €176,000 it was definitely advantage Elliott.

The low entry levels which saw just 16 line up for the three graded events ultimately had an impact on the featured Tote Fortria Chase as Elliott’s gamble in leaving his former double-Grade One winner Clarcam in the race paid off in style.

“I was going to go point to pointing. I was thinking of getting a hunter cert this weekend for him as I thought it would be an easier road for him!” he said.

“But I saw it was a small entry in the race the other day and said we’d enter him. If he never wins another race again he’s done us proud. He’s a little star. I probably should retire him now on that because he’s a brilliant horse and we’re very lucky to have him,” Elliott added.

Clarcam was a 7-2 winner and had a half a length in hand of Alisier d’Irlande at the line while earlier Mengli Khan justified 5-4 favouritism in style in the Grade Three For Auction Novice Hurdle.

The giant four-year-old was made 20-1 for Cheltenham’s Supreme Novice Hurdle and Elliott commented: “We think he’s good. I’d say he’ll go for the Royal Bond- he’s a two miler. He’s got loads of boot and I’d say a better race might suit him better.”

Stylish return

The sting of losing his job as No. 1 jockey to Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud won’t have been eased for Bryan Cooper after Apple’s Jade’s stylish return to action in the Grade Two Lismullen Hurdle.

Cooper rode the star mare to festival glory last Spring but his fellow Kerryman Kennedy got the nod for her first start of the new campaign and the 8-15 favourite was never in serious danger from Jer’s Girl in the closing stages after leading throughout.

Apple’s Jade was cut to 5-2 favourite to retain her OLBG Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March and Elliott predicted that after trying to defend the Hatton’s Grace crown in three weeks time she will stick to racing against her own sex for the rest of the season.

Of his jockey protégé, the trainer was fulsome in his praise and said: “Jack’s probably lucky to have us - but we’re lucky to have him!”

Willie Mullins had to give best to Elliott when Stratum couldn’t cope with Mengli Khan but later his only other runner, Footpad, put in superb chasing debut to beat the Elliott trained Brelade.

Daryl Jacob guided the former Grade One winning hurdler to a sure-footed eleven length success that saw him made as low as 8-1 for Cheltenham’s JLT and which had his trainer purring.

“He’s as good a novice I’ve seen schooling at home. He’s so well balanced in his jumping, a natural,” said Mullins who indicated the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse’s upcoming ‘Winter Festival’ is a target.

The stewards “noted” the explanations of all nine jockeys who trailed home Danny Mullins on Icantsay in the opening handicap hurdle.

The nicely backed 9-2 winner quickly established a long lead and appeared to be well over a furlong clear at one stage down the back straight for the final time.

By the turn-in Icantsay still had a huge lead, with little apparent urgency among the chasing pack, and eventually won by ten lengths from Aa Bee See.

A stewards enquiry concluded after the second race and a spokesman said: “We heard evidence from each jockey about their rides and noted their explanations.”

Mullins’s enterprising ride was praised by Icantsay’s trainer John Ryan who explained: “He’s a different horse altogether going left handed and doesn’t even want to start going right-handed. He had a nice mark there off 107 and it was there to be collected at some stage on a going day.”

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