Apple’s Jade returns in style on day of mixed emotions at Navan
Gordon Elliott’s star mare romps to victory but Identity Thief loses life in same race
Apple’s Jade made a winning return to action at Navan. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Michael O’Leary’s star mare Apple’s Jade returned to form with a vengeance by routing her Lismullen Hurdle opposition at Navan on Sunday.
It was a reassuringly straightforward victory for one of the Ryanair boss’s top performers after Samcro’s shock eclipse at Down Royal nine days before.
Sadly however evidence of jump racing’s innate unpredictability was contained in the same race as another of O’Leary’s Grade One performers, Identity Thief, lost his life.
The former Fighting Fifth and Aintree Stayers Hurdle winner was pulled up by Rachael Blackmore having broken a shoulder just after the second last flight when in pursuit of Apple’s Jade.
It put in context the sort of reverse suffered by Samcro and indeed by Footpad who fell at the final fence in a Naas Grade Three the previous day.
Samcro is set to return to action in next Sunday’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown while Willie Mullins is hopeful the overreach suffered by Footpad before his exit is a short-term problem.
“He’s very sore. He’s got a bang on the front of his leg, on his pastern, and he got an overreach also,” Mullins said on Sunday. “Hopefully it’s just a blip. It might cost him a week or ten days.”
Apple’s Jade’s tail off in form last season presented a more delicate challenge for Gordon Elliott’s team as the hugely popular mare kept coming in season, including at both Cheltenham and Punchestown.
But after making all under Jack Kennedy to win the Grade Two for a second year running, the evens favourite was cut to 3-1 to regain her OLBG Mares crown at Cheltenham in March.
“She showed a lot of her old spark,” Elliott said afterwards. “If you look at her before and after the race she’s a different mare. She was dead as a maggot when she was in season. But she’s like a bull going around there today.”
It was a timely boost for Kennedy who later this week will appeal a ten day whip suspension that’s due to start next weekend and rules him out of riding Samcro in the Morgiana.
If Identity Thief’s sad fate was reminder of the harsh toll National Hunt racing can take its enduring appeal was obvious in Ballyoisin’s Tote Fortria Chase romp.
Ground conditions saw one of his likely rivals Doctor Phoenix withdrawn although the 8-13 favourite put in the sort of free-wheeling performance that suggested not many horses could have gone with him anyway.
“Thrill a minute,” was jockey Barry Geraghty’s verdict after the JP McManus owned horse won in a canter by 23 lengths.
“He was mad fresh and was well up for it today. Jumping is his thing and a big track like this, a horse like him can excel. Down the back you are winging and winging but he’s taking them on and you have to go with him.
“He’s one of those horses with a good attitude. He wants to go on and wants to do it and wants to please. But ten strides from the last I’m saying ‘come here, we don’t need to anything fancy here!’” he added
The second-string of Willie Mullins’s two runners, Aramon, ran out a resounding winner of the Grade Three For Auction Novice as the market leaders Felix Desjy and Quick Grabim both failed to make the frame.
“He ran very green in Listowel and that’s a huge improvement for him. He showed a lot more speed than we thought he had,” Mullins said. “You’d probably have to look at the Royal Bond now.”
Apart from the eclipse of the two favourites, another notable feature of the race was how an accident was narrowly avoided as the field galloped down the back straight.
Conditional jockey Evan Daly was running on the track and the horses just avoided him as the startled rider darted to his right at the last moment. He was interviewed by the stewards and cautioned.
Gordon Elliott doubled up on the day in the bumper as the 5-4 favourite Column Of Fire proved much too good.
Elliott has four runners at a rescheduled Thurles fixture on Monday where even free entry for racegoers is unlikely to have the place heaving. A handicap chase victory for the veteran Shake The Bucket would nevertheless be popular.