Elliott talks down Apple's Jade hopes
Gordon Elliott is taking nothing for granted as his star mare Apple's Jade makes her seasonal reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan today.
The five-year-old won Grade One events at Aintree and Punchestown in spectacular style in the spring of 2016 when trained by Willie Mullins, but was one of the most high-profile horses to leave the champion trainer last autumn following a well-publicised split with Gigginstown House Stud.
She suffered a shock defeat on her first start for Elliott in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal 12 months ago and while she raised her game to win the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse, the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown, her trainer warns she could be rusty again following a six-month lay-off.
"It looks a competitive race and Jer's Girl has got race fitness and is also getting 7lb off her," said Elliott. "She's probably a little bit more forward than she was at this stage last season, I'd say. She's in good form and as fit as I can have her, but she will come on for the run."
Should Apple's Jade come through her comeback unscathed, a return to Fairyhouse on December 3 is likely to be on her agenda. "I'd imagine the Hatton's Grace is where we'll go, all being well," Elliott added.
Apple's Jade faces just four rivals in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two, including stablemates Flaxen Flare and Duca De Thaix.
Gavin Cromwell saddles his dual Grade One-winning mare Jer's Girl, who has won a Roscommon maiden on the Flat and finished fourth behind Jezki in the Istabraq Hurdle at Tipperary already this autumn.
The small but select field is completed by Noel Meade's veteran Monksland, who won a conditions hurdle at Thurles less than three weeks ago.
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Sunday Indo Sport