Apple’s Jade ran out an easy winner of the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, adding to last year’s success in the race.
Winning at the highest level for the ninth time, Jack Kennedy decided to keep things simple and bounced out into an early lead.
She held around a four-length advantage over her main rival Faugheen, and both seemed happy enough with their positions as none of the other runners were able to lay up anywhere near them.
Despite jumping out to her right as the pace increased, Kennedy had not moved a muscle on the 8-13 favourite as he asked her to go about her business running towards the second last.
Ruby Walsh spotted the move and started to ask Faugheen to get closer, but Faugheen took off a stride too soon and suffered a crashing fall.
The former champion hurdler was on the ground for some time, but eventually rose to his feet after a couple of minutes and was walked back in by Walsh.
That gifted Gordon Elliott’s Apple’s Jade the race, but it would have taken something special from Faugheen to put it up to the mare, who finished full of running as Early Doors stayed on to take a remote second.
Kennedy said: “I had to make the running again on her, but it didn’t matter. (She) jumped great, travelled away, jumped the second last and she changed gears and was away from the back of it and galloped all the way to the line. She was very good.
“I could see on the big screen I was fairly well clear of what was in behind me. She’s unreal, she is a pleasure to be riding.
“She was in good form this time last year and then lost her way, so hopefully she can keep continuing this way anyway.”
Elliott said: “Jack said she was brilliant today and foot perfect everywhere. He gave her a kick at the second last and she picked up changed gears and was gone again. He said she was actually a bit idle in front, but it’s a good complaint to have and we’re lucky to have her.
“It was unfortunate to see Faugheen falling and we don’t know what would have happened, but it probably would have taken a fair one to go past her.
“She’ll be entered in everything. She might come back here over two miles (in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle). In Cheltenham, she will probably go for the race I think she can win and that might be the Mares’ Hurdle.
“She likes running and I think I gave her too much time between her last run and Cheltenham last year. I’ll have to talk to Michael and Eddie (O’Leary of owner Gigginstown House Stud), but I wouldn’t mind bringing her back here over two miles.
“She goes a bit right going to a hurdle, but jumps it straight. She’s done that for the last two seasons, but it doesn’t stop her.”
Michael O’Leary seems intent on taking her to the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
“We honestly don’t think about Cheltenham until we get closer, because things can change so much between now and then. The plan will still be, I think, to bring her back to Cheltenham and probably go for the mares’ race,” said O’Leary.
“Hopefully Samcro will come out tomorrow in the Ryanair Hurdle and he’ll run well. If he wins it, that tees him up to come back here in February and maybe go on to Cheltenham.
“I’m sure we’ll have something for the three-mile hurdle anyway, so I’ll be surprised if ultimately we don’t decide, with Gordon and Eddie, to send her to the Mares’ Hurdle if she’s fit and well and not be tempted by those other baubles!”
RaceBets make Apple’s Jade their 11-10 favourite from 15-8 for the Mares’ Hurdle.