If the nascent jumps season came to the boil with last weekend’s Champion Chase, it’ll catch fire at Navan on Sunday, writes Tom Harle.
Here are a few things to keep an eagle eye out for this weekend.
Apple of Gordon’s eye
Fairyhouse is looming and ten-time Grade 1 winner Apple’s Jade makes a highly-anticipated return for Gordon Elliott in County Meath on Sunday, ridden for the first time by Robbie Power.
The mare, who underwent a wind operation over the summer, will go for a third straight win in the Grade 2 Lismullen Hurdle in preparation for next month’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.
“She has been a star for us,” said Elliott. “Her form petered off a bit during the second half of the season, but she did the same the previous season, and maybe she’s better before Christmas.
Cullentra House have stolen the show so far this season and Apple’s is tasked with keeping the good times rolling.
Filling his boots
Elliott returned seven winners at Down Royal last weekend and looks set for another bumper haul at Navan.
He is three-handed in the Grade 2 Fortria Chase with Hardlien, Duca De Thaix and Doctor Phoenix all looking to recreate Elliott’s efforts in 2017, when he won with Clarcam.
Another race Elliott boasts a fine record in is the For Auction novice Hurdle – victorious with Labaik and Mengli Khan in the past- where his hopes are carried by Abacadabras.
Already responsible for 7 of 40 entries in next month’s Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, Elliott continues to dominate the jumps scene.
Willie, won’t he!
This is a big weekend for Willie Mullins as he brings a number of contenders back onto the turf.
Blackbow is a fascinating horse, taking on the 2m maiden hurdle at Naas. It hasn’t been sighted since last year, finishing fifth in the 2018 Champion Bumper.
Blue Sari, who finished second in last season’s Champion Bumper, also intrigues in the 3:25 at Naas and Mullins holds a formidable hand in the 2m3f beginners chase.
Can Mullins stamp his authority on the season this weekend?
Mullins should also contend in the Poplar Square Chase with Cilaos Emery, fancied for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham before pulling out with injury.
But standing in his way will be the returning Ornua, a novice Grade One-winner.
Henry De Bromhead’s 8-year-old won the Maghull Novices’ Chase with Davy Russell last year but started the year in lukewarm form, despite winning at Aintree in April.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire
No rest for Aidan O’Brien’s Magic Wand, who is entered in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes at Naas on Saturday four days on from a midfield Melbourne Cup finish.
The 4-year-old took a bump on leaving the stalls and ambled to a tenth-placed finish in the Flemington showpiece.
Aidan said: “She seems to have come out of the Melbourne Cup very well – obviously it was only a few days ago, but she seems to be in good form since.”
Ryan Moore will pilot Magic and True Self for Willie Mullins, who missed out on a Melbourne Cup entry by one and will be out to make amends.