Apple's Jade lands Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown but race marred by death of Nichols Canyon
Apple's Jade had to dig deep to collar Supasundae close home and land the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.
But the Grade One race was marred by the fall of Stayers' Hurdle hero Nichols Canyon, who came down at the fifth flight in front of the stands and was attended to as the obstacle was omitted on the final circuit. He sadly had to be put down.
The two principals cut out the running between them over the three miles and it looked for a long way as though Supasundae would come out on top, until Apple's Jade (4-6 favourite) - who was trying the trip for the first time - pulled out more on the long run to the line.
Davy Russell, who was replacing the injured Jack Kennedy, got extra out of the Gordon Elliott-trained mare to snatch the verdict by half a length for owners Gigginstown House Stud. Bapaume was third.
Russell said: "She's something else. I've only ridden her at home and it's a pleasure to ride her, even at home. Lisa O'Neill does all the work on her, but really Jack (Kennedy) is the man that has probably made her and unfortunately he got a couple of horrid falls during the week.
"All credit has to go to Jack, Lisa and the team at home, really. I knew when I got stuck into her she'd find loads - Supasundae ran well in Fairyhouse and I knew he'd stay, but to be fair, Apple's Jade is all heart.
"It's amazing what a good filly can do."
RaceBets cut Apple's Jade to even-money favourite from 6-4 for the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Elliott said: "Davy said if he rode her again he would have got her into a battle earlier, but in fairness she was in front where it mattered. She just loves a battle and won by half a length at the end.
"Davy gave her a great ride, but she's Jack's mare and Jack will be riding her the next day. He got a couple of falls and he was very sore this morning, so he couldn't ride, but she's Jack's ride and he'll be back on her the next day.
"She'll be against the girls next time in Cheltenham, the mares' race is the plan. She's just five years old and has now won seven Grade Ones.
"It was very unfortunate what happened to Nichols Canyon."