Apple’s Jade successfully defended her crown with an impressive display in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.
Gordon Elliott’s star mare used this Grade Two contest as a springboard to winning her second Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and also the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown last season.
She could only finish third behind Benie Des Dieux at Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring, but she was the even-money favourite to make a successful reappearance once again and did so in fine style under Jack Kennedy.
Apple’s Jade was sent straight to the lead and led fellow Gigginstown House Stud-owned runners Dortmund Park and Identity Thief into the straight. The six-year-old was well in command jumping the second flight from the finish and comfortably pulled 11 lengths clear.
“She was good there today and we’re delighted,” said Elliott.
“She had to do the donkey work and she’ll even come on a little bit from the run, but we’re delighted – it was a great run.”
He added: “We’ll go to Fairyhouse now for the Hatton’s Grace. I was very happy and she was a different mare than she was on her last two runs. It was nice to get her back on track.
“She showed a lot of her old spark.”
Jessica Harrington’s 2014 Champion Hurdle hero Jezki came through to fill the runner-up spot, but the race was tinged with sadness as Henry de Bromhead’s dual Grade One winner Identity Thief suffered a fatal injury jumping the second-last.
Elliott later doubled up with Column Of Fire, who was a runaway winner of the concluding bumper.
Runner-up to stablemate Commander Of Fleet in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at Punchestown in the spring, the 5-4 favourite easily went one better in the hands of Lisa O’Neill.
Elliott said: “He’s a nice horse, a big baby.
“He’ll be a horse that won’t do much more this year. He’ll have another run in a bumper, I’d say that’s all he’ll do this year, but he’s a horse for the future.
“He was behind the bridle the whole way and only got going at the end.”