Patrick Mullins: 'Faugheen primed if 'Jade' is still feeling effects of Hatton's Grace tour de force'
It's not hard to imagine Willie muttering a version of Humphrey Bogart's famous line (below) when Apple's Jade strolls into Leopardstown's parade ring today.
"Of all the gin joints,
in all the towns,
in all the world,
she walks into mine."
Rick Blaine, 'Casablanca'
And not only because his dress sense would fit right in at Casablanca, December 1941. Mares such as Apples, like Ingrid Bergman, are rare indeed.
Since she left Closutton she has been a winning machine. Her performance when taking her third Hatton's Grace was extraterrestrial.
I set a strong gallop on Wicklow Brave and tried to sneak a breather after passing the stands. But Jack Kennedy sent the mare on to my girths and the pace remained strong.
After regaining a lead after some flying leaps I again tried to steady up with a mile to run. Again Jack brought the mare upsides and on we went, like pace-setters for Eliud Kipchoge.
When Wicklow caved with a half-mile to run, Apples refused the invitation of a steady furlong and poured more coal on to the furnace.
As I dropped back I was sure something from behind us had to catch her up Fairyhouse's long, unforgiving straight. How wrong I was. She disappeared in to the distance like the Orient Express.
It was an incredible performance by an exceptional athlete. However, a race run like that is never easy and the question is, does it leave a mark at some stage of the season?
She left Limini in her wake that day so this time we send out Faugheen to meet her.
The old warrior has lost some of his sparkle and we hope the step up to three miles can reignite his fire like it did in Punchestown in the spring.
It is an intriguing match-up but these wars of attrition usually go to the younger set of legs.
However, perhaps her tour de force earlier this month will leave her vulnerable. And if not? Well, we'll always have Aintree.
The Savills Steeplechase has attracted a cast of heavyweights. Road to Respect is the one to beat after his rout in Down Royal.
Kemboy has won top handicaps and a Grade Two chase so this is the logical step for him.
His running will tell us where we go with him for the rest of the season.
We are hoping Bellshill can develop into our Gold Cup horse this year. One of very few horses to win a Grade One bumper, hurdle and chase, he was victorious in the Punchestown Gold Cup last April.
However, his record at Leopardstown is poor. He has been beaten in all three of his starts here.
Indeed, he has only won two of his 11 left-handed starts compared to his eight from nine victories going right-handed.
His one loss? When a mistake at the last stopped him winning the Irish National with 11st5lb. We can see no reason for this and perhaps it's coincidence but...
Down in Limerick we finally take the wraps off the much-vaunted Annamix.
An athletic and light-framed grey horse, he has shown plenty at home.
Whether he is as good as the hype is another matter but we will be bitterly disappointed if he doesn't win this.
I own one of his opponents. Accidental is named as his dam was accidently covered by a French (typical isn't it?) "gelding" when they were both two years old in the field.
The dam went on to be Grade One-winning Airlie Beach and the sire, Miguel Angel, was quickly gelded for his troubles and won a maiden hurdle in Tramore.
He is a real home-bred! Miguel Angel was bought because he was closely related to Golden Silver, who is a brother to successful sire Diamond Boy.
His grand-dam Screaming Witness was my first race-ride 13 years ago this month, which is a scary thought indeed.
Elite Charboniere (12.10 Leopardstown)
Undressed (1.05 Limerick)
Stormy Ireland (1.40 Limerick)