Sent off at odds of 1/4 to land the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on Sunday – a race covered by our free horse racing tips – Apple’s Jade was expected to get her career back on track with a comfortable victory.
Her rider Robbie Power did not seem happy from a long way out, however, and the daughter of Saddler Maker eventually laboured into second – finishing nine and a half lengths behind the winner Bacardys.
Her Racing Post comments from that race subsequently read “Led, jumped right at times, over 1 length clear at halfway, narrow lead after 4 out and joined briefly before straight, pushed along with narrow lead before 3 out, headed from next and soon no impression on winner under pressure in 2nd.”
There has been plenty of talk about that performance since, with some quarters of the racing world suggesting that that effort – and her form shown at the backend of last season – show her ability to now be on the wane. Owners Gigginstown House Stud have even had to come out in support of her – dispelling any rumours of an imminent retirement.
Is this the end of the seven-year old’s racing career? Well from what I’ve previously seen of Apple’s Jade, I won’t be writing her off.
Initially trained in France by Emmanuel Clayeux, Apple’s Jade began her career in Ireland under the care of Willie Mullins, racing four times for the Clossutton maestro – the highlight being a forty-one-length Aintree demolition back in April 2016.
The much-publicised Willie Mullins training fee dispute saw Gigginstown move Apple’s Jade to Gordon Elliott’s yard in 2016, but she was a beaten favourite in her first two starts for the stable, and her doubters – including myself – were growing in numbers.
Her third start for Elliott came in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, where she faced a formidable rival in the Willie Mullins-trained Vroum Vroum Mag – who arrived with a perfect 10-10 record in Britain and Ireland.
Sent off at odds of 4/1, Apple’s Jade was briefly headed by Vroum Vroum Mag as the two battled it out in the home straight, but she showed bravery and tenacity to get back up in the shadows of the post – becoming the first four-year-old winner of the Hatton’s Grace.
A remarkable seven Grade 1 wins have since been achieved, including two more Hatton’s Grace’s – victories that have been recorded by nine-length and twenty-length winning margins.
Her form figures between the months of October-December currently read an impressive 12211111112, and she has never failed to complete in her twenty-four-race career to date, finishing out of the first three on just two occasions.
It wasn’t great that’s for sure, but Apple’s Jade has never seemed to be at her very best when fresh, with five of her ten career defeats now coming on the back of absences of 75-days or more.
It is also worth noting that she is not the only Gordon Elliott recruit that has looked as though they would benefit greatly from their comeback run. Delta Work ran well below his best in the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal earlier this month, but that performance has seemed much easier to forgive.
Sunday’s winner Bacardys may not be considered the most exciting horse at Willie Mullins’ yard, but he is a dual Grade 1 winner that would almost certainly have more than six wins to his name had he not had his jumping issues.
As mentioned above, Sunday’s run should have blown away any cobwebs with next month’s Hatton’s Grace in mind – where she will bid to land the race for the fourth year in succession.
She will have a seven-pound weights swing with Bacardys in her favour – should that rival reoppose – and given her recent tendency to jump out more noticeably to her right, the return to a right-handed circuit is also a likely plus.
Her doubters may be back out once again before that contest, but this time around, I won’t be one of them.