Limini slashed for Mare's Hurdle at Cheltenham after lowering Apple's Jade's colours in style
Limini showed a smart turn of foot to get the better of Apple's Jade in the Quevega Mares Hurdle at Punchestown.
Apple's Jade looked a potential superstar when winning at Aintree for Willie Mullins last spring, but was part of a large number of horses to leave the champion trainer during the off-season following a well-publicised split with Gigginstown House Stud.
The five-year-old was beaten on her first start for Gordon Elliott at Down Royal, but raised her game to see off former stable companion Vroum Vroum Mag in the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse in December and was the 2-5 favourite to claim this Listed prize on her first start since.
Bryan Cooper sent Apple's Jade straight to the front alongside Whiteout, with Ruby Walsh happy to play a waiting game aboard the Mullins-trained 3-1 chance Limini, who was making her first appearance since last April.
Whiteout was back peddling when falling four flights from the finish, leaving Apple's Jade clear.
However, Cheltenham Festival heroine Limini closed the gap on the run to the final flight and picked up best on the run-in to score by two lengths.
Walsh said: "We kind of steadied up from the fourth-last, it turned into a bit of a sprint to the last and we always knew she wasn't short of pace.
"It was a good performance and onwards and upwards.
"I'd say she jumped better than last season. She was very slick and very accurate.
"Fingers crossed she'll come out of the race well and she can start her prep for Cheltenham next week."
Limini was cut to around 7-4 for the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, although Paddy Power go as short as evens.
Fellow Closutton inmate Vroum Vroum Mag is also around 7-4, with Apple's Jade pushed out to 7-2 by Betfred.
Mullins said: "The conditions didn't suit us and we didn't have a run all season, so I didn't really know what to expect.
"The fact that Ruby didn't even have to pick up his stick means she has improved a fair bit from last year.
"I'm hoping that will bring her along nicely. The mares' race (at Cheltenham) is what I have been aiming for.
"She has run a stone better than I thought she would."
Mullins won the same race with Annie Power 12 months ago before she was supplemented for, and won, the Champion Hurdle.
Asked whether he could follow the same route with Limini, the trainer added: "You wouldn't know the way things are going, but we are not going to discuss that."
Elliott was not too disappointed with the performance of Apple's Jade.
He said: "There are no excuses and she was beaten by a better horse on the day.
"The plan is still the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
"A bit better ground and a stronger gallop would suit her better."