Jack Kennedy and Apple’s Jade to be reunited at Fairyhouse
Elliott’s star mare is looking to bounce back and make history in Hatton’s Grace Hurdle
Jack Kennedy and Apple’s Jade are set to be reunited at Fairyhouse next weekend. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Apple’s Jade has history in her sights at Fairyhouse on Sunday and the prolific mare will have old ally Jack Kennedy back on board to try and help her.
The Gordon Elliott-trained star is one of three horses to have recorded three wins in the history of this weekend’s ‘Winter Festival’ feature, the €125,000 Bar One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.
Her spectacular hat-trick a year ago meant she emulated the Bowe family’s stalwart duo, Solerina (2003-05) and Limestone Lad who first won the Grade One highlight 20 years ago before also scoring in 2001 and 2002.
Neither of those former stars got the opportunity to go for four in a row but Apple’s Jade is on target once again for the highlight of this Sunday’s triple-Grade programme at Fairyhouse.
So too is her regular partner Jack Kennedy who was on board for 11 runs out of 12 but missed out on Apple’s Jade’s return to action at Navan just over two weeks ago due to a broken collarbone.
Robbie Power wound up in the hot-seat for that Lismullen Hurdle although it ended in a resounding defeat as a 1-4 favourite behind Bacardys. It means the hugely popular mare goes into this Hatton’s Grace under something of a cloud.
Kennedy has been out of action for over six weeks since breaking his collarbone in a fall at Punchestown but is targeting a weekend return.
“I’ll definitely be back for the weekend. I’m not sure about before then. I might leave it to the weekend to be sure,” said the jockey who has been back riding out since last week.
“It has been frustrating but at least the horses have been in good form and running well so hopefully I’ll be able to slot back in,” Kennedy added on Monday.
Samcro is another Gigginstown Stud runner he’s eager to get back on when that novice lines up for the Drinmore Chase, a race Michael O’Leary’s team have won five times in the last six years.
It is Apple’s Jade however who will present a ‘Winter Festival’ quandary for many.
She put up one of the finest performances of her spectacular career to win last year’s Hatton’s Grace by 20 lengths from Supasundae.
After that Apple’s Jade showed remarkable versatility to win over three miles at Leopardstown over Christmas before again hammering Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle over two miles in February.
On the strength of that she started favourite for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham but disappointed there.
Beaten twice more last season, that lacklustre Lismullen return had some critics questioning if her best days are behind her.
“She obviously disappointed but hopefully she’ll show a better account of herself at the weekend,” said Kennedy. “It’s hard to know until she runs and we see it.”
Gigginstown’s Eddie O’Leary admitted on Monday that he is hoping for the old Apple’s Jade to remerge at the weekend rather than anticipating it.
“I hope to God she needed the run or something the last day. A lot of Gordon’s were needing the run back then. Hopefully she’ll bounce back,” he said.
The shape of Sunday’s big races will become more clear after Tuesday’s forfeit stage although some bookmakers already offer 5-1 about Apple’s Jade bouncing back to winning form.
Instead it is her old rival Benie Des Dieux that Paddy Power have made an early 11-10 favourite ahead of the rising star of the mares ranks, Honeysuckle.
Another emerging National Hunt power is the unbeaten Envoi Allen who is likely to start a warm favourite for Sunday’s other Grade One, the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.