Big Weekend: Racing from Naas and Navan

Friday, November 08, 2019
Big Weekend Apple Jade

Jade in numbers

Apple’s Jade makes her reappearance in Navan on Sunday, in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle (1.05). This is a race she has won for the past two seasons and should she justify short odds in doing so, she will emulate the Paddy Mullins-trained Cloughtaney (1988-1990), who was ridden to all of those victories by the trainer’s amateur-riding sons Willie and Tom, the latter doing the steering in 1989.


While she disappointed in the latter end of last season, the Gigginstown House Stud mare had been spectacular in the build-up to the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle, for which she went off favourite.


She has won 13 of 22 races and an astonishing 10 of those have been at Grade 1 level, at 2, 2 ½ and 3 miles. The first two came in her juvenile career when she was trained by the aforementioned Willie Mullins. Gordon Elliott has stewarded her development brilliantly and it says something for the daughter of Saddle Maker and Apple’s For Ever (who was sired by Nikos), that while Jack Kennedy has been her most regularly successful jockey, she has also won with Jonathan Burke, Bryan Cooper and Davy Russell in the saddle.


Robbie Power will become the sixth pilot to get legged up on Apple’s Jade. Ironically, given no-one has ridden more top-flight winners in the history of jumps racing, Ruby Walsh is the odd one out as the only jockey who didn’t win on her back, finishing second on their only spin together in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal three years ago.


If all goes to plan, the target is a fourth consecutive Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, a feat that has never been achieved before. Indeed only two other horses have ever won the 2½-mile contest three times in total.


Amazingly, both were owned and trained by the Bowe family, making James Bowe by far the most successful trainer in the race with six wins. Solerina was the first to do them consecutively (2003-2005), while Limestone Lad had a gap year when he went chasing in 2000 but returned to the smaller obstacles to add to his 1999 triumph 2001 and 2002.


Power is hoping to add this prize to his record for the first time but Paul Townend has a chance of joining Charlie Swan (Danoli 1994 and Istabraq 1997, 1998) and Solerina’s partner for her three triumphs Gary Hutchinson as the joint most successful rider in the race, taking the appointment on Bacardys.




The lesser spotted

It is good to Cilaos Emery returning to the track in the Grade 3 Poplar Square Chase (1.05) at Naas tomorrow. This contest has only attracted five runners but it is intriguing nonetheless.


Cilaos Emery will be running for the first time in 10 months and only the second 23 so has met with plenty of issues but was a Grade 1-winning novice hurdler when beating subsequent dual Champion Hurdle runner-up.


The Luke McMahon-owned gelding has only run three times since, the most recent of those a very eye-catching beginners’ chase success over Impact Factor, and subsequent Arkle Chase winner Duc Des Genievres, at Gowran Park last January. Willie Mullins will have his charge ready for his seasonal bow but is sure to leave plenty of room for improvement.


Ornua is another making his seasonal debut as is Duca De Thaix, while Winter Escape is being eased back and showed indications of better health when third over hurdles last month. Kildorrery complete the field.


The former boasts plenty of class and was a thrilling Grade 1 winner at Aintree but good ground is critical for Henry de Bromhead’s charge, though we are sure to see some stupendous leaps with Davy Russell in the plate.



JP target

Whether JP McManus has a particular liking for the Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle (1.40) at Naas, he certainly boasts a tremendous record, having taken the first prize in the last three years: De Name Escapes Me (Noel Meade 2018), Oscar Knight (Tom Mullins 2017), Sir Scorpion (Tom Mullins 2016).


The Limerick man has five contestants this time. If looking for an omen, or trend, perhaps the fact that Mark Walsh has ridden the last three winners would lead you towards the Eddie Harty-conditioned Kilfenora – last seen when third over a half-mile further in Punchestown.


Further down towards the bottom of the handicap is Rock De Baune however, who has enjoyed a busy summer on the level, winning twice and coming off a brilliant third in the Tote Irish Cesarewitch. His form over obstacles isn’t good, given that he was thrown into Listed company on debut but John Kiely is a maestro and with the underground conditions in his favour as well as fitness, he just might be the one, especially with the in-form Darragh O’Keeffe doing the propelling. 

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