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Apple's rides off into the sunset

Elliott salutes the 'horse of a lifetime' as Jade is retired with 11 Grade One victories


Apple’s Jadeset a blistering pace during her final race at Cheltenham yesterday

Apple’s Jadeset a blistering pace during her final race at Cheltenham yesterday

Apple’s Jadeset a blistering pace during her final race at Cheltenham yesterday

Gordon Elliott hailed Apple's Jade as "the horse of a lifetime" after the curtain came down on her career at the Cheltenham Festival yesterday.

The Gigginstown House Stud-owned mare has won 11 Grade Ones during a stellar racing career, a tally which includes the 2017 Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and three consecutive renewals of the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse.

Following a handful of disappointing efforts, the eight-year-old returned to winning ways at Leopardstown over the Christmas period, but subsequently failed to fire in the Galmoy Hurdle and connections suggested the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle would be her swansong.

Having given a bold sight in front for much of the way under champion jockey Richard Johnson, Apple's Jade faded into eighth place, after which her retirement was confirmed.

"She's been the horse of lifetime," said Elliott, "she's 11 Grade Ones won.

"She's going to go to stud now. We've been lucky to train her.

"She enjoyed herself today. The engine just isn't go as fast it used to be.

"She owes us nothing"

Gigginstown's Eddie O'Leary echoed Elliott's sentiments.

"Apple's Jade has the been horse of a lifetime. She has been absolutely fantastic," he said.

"No mare has ever won 11 Grade Ones. She is a very special mare.

"One of the most special days for me was when she won the four-year-old Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree in April, 2016, when she won by a record 41 lengths.

"She will be covered now and enjoy the retirement she deserves.

"She has just been an awesome mare. To beat the boys over two, two and a half and three miles is something very special - she was just fabulous."

Apple's Jade won 15 of her 28 races in all, earning £814,910 in win and place prize-money.

Having begun her career in France, she was originally trained by Willie Mullins - winning two Grade Ones - before joining Elliott in the autumn of 2016.

Meanwhile, Concertista maintained Mullins' 100 per cent record in the five runnings of the Daylesford Mares' Novices' Hurdle with a wide-margin success.

Just touched off by stablemate Eglantine Du Seuil 12 months ago, Concertista went into this race still a maiden - but put that right in emphatic fashion.

Daryl Jacob brought the six-year-old, owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, with a powerful run in the straight and the 9-2 chance shot past stablemate Dolcita as she stormed up the hill to win by 12 lengths.

Rayna's World passed a host of rivals on the run-in to grab third place for trainer Phil Kirby and jockey Thomas Dowson at odds of 100-1.

"She hadn't won a race since winning on the Flat in France in 2017," said Mullins. "I'm not sure who's been training her! That's a nice way to break the duck, anyway.

"I didn't think she'd go on the ground and I was afraid the race might be too short for her, but she's won impressively.

"She obviously ran very well in the race last year and that form looks good, with the fourth (Black Tears) running well in the handicap on Tuesday.

"Hopefully our mare will be a good mare now. I'm delighted to win the race again."