Apple's Jade should aim for the stars

Reflections on Sunday at Fairyhouse...

BY John Duggan 18:43 Monday 4 December 2017, 18:43 4 Dec 2017

The trainer's championship in Ireland is certainly on, after jumps handler Gordon Elliott opened up a lead of over €400,000 in prize money over Willie Mullins following a red letter Sunday at Fairyhouse. 'Death Duty', 'Mengli Khan' and mare 'Apple's Jade' gave Meath native Elliott a hat trick of Grade 1 victories, all in the colours of Ryanair supremo Michael O'Leary.

Apple's Jade was great value for her win in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, trouncing the field by 9 lengths to take the contest for the second year running. She is only 5, and improvement is evident. Elliott indicated that she would once again be aimed at the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham, which she gamely won back in March. However, this is not as prestigious a race as the Champion Hurdle or even the Stayers' Hurdle, and I would love to see Apple's Jade run in the Champion if the ground was soft. Perhaps the Aintree Hurdle is the perfect race for her, but there are only two horses realistically in the Champion frame, 'Faugheen' and 'Buveur D'Air'. There will be a lot of water under the bridge between now and March 13th, and I believe it would be folly for connections not to keep their options open. 

'Nichols Canyon' will surely improve for his first run of the season, and I thought 'Cilaos Emery' shaped well on his reappearance to go into a notebook for us to remember when better ground is in his favour. 

Of the other races, 'Early Doors' ran well behind Mengli Khan in the Royal Bond Novices Hurdle, which was a bit of a muddling affair for me. Mengli Khan is really coming to himself and the market spoke in his favour, but many of the others were out with the washing. 

Death Duty couldn't have won any more impressively in the Drinmore Novices Chase, and I think the third placed horse, 'Snow Falcon', can be placed to good effect when stepped up in trip on better ground. 

'Presenting Percy' made mincemeat of his rivals in the long distance chase, and that was probably his last run in a handicap. I rate him as a better Grade 1 prospect for the spring festivals than Saturday's Ladbrokes Trophy Chase winner at Newbury, 'Total Recall'. Winning trainer Willie Mullins correctly identified the Aintree Grand National as the aim, as Total Recall would have to show a lot more improvement to be a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender. 'Whisper' ran a brave race under a big weight to be just touched off, but the horse that might emerge best of all is one that didn't run, the Nicky Henderson trained 'Might Bite', a quirky sort that beat Whisper twice earlier this year and who is very exciting this season. 

There were a couple of horses which caught my eye in the Handicap Hurdle won by 'David's Charm' at Fairyhouse; namely 'Agent Boru', a fast finishing fifth, and 'Veinard', who was second at Leopardstown's Christmas Festival last year. A repeat visit may be worthwhile. 

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