Apple's Jade can warm up for Cheltenham in style
Apple's Jade warms up for the Cheltenham Festival with a spin in the Quevega Mares' Hurdle at Punchestown this afternoon.
Last season's leading juvenile was surprisingly turned over on her Down Royal comeback by Rashaan, but bounced back to just go under in the Fighting Fifth and then claimed the scalp of Vroum Vroum Mag in the Hatton's Grace.
The Mares' Hurdle is her likely target next month but if Gordon Elliott was hoping for an easy prep race today, he will have been disappointed to see Limini among the opposition.
Trained by Apple's Jade's former handler Willie Mullins, Limini landed the inaugural running of the mares' novices' hurdle at last year's Festival before placing in a couple of Grade Ones.
The most recent of those came at the Festival here behind stable companion Whiteout, who tops the weights for this €32,500 two-mile-four-furlong Listed contest.
Jessica Harrington's Rock On The Moor is the fourth major player in this six-runner contest.
She boasted a 141 rating on her last outing over hurdles, when fourth here behind Whiteout at Punchestown last April, and her two runs this season have been over fences.
She won this race 12 months ago and is entitled to be a force again.
Apple's Jade still has something like 6lb in hand of Limini at these weights and the layers will bet that way.
Mullins and Elliott also take each other on in the two-mile-four-furlong maiden hurdle with Castello Sforza and Mossback respectively.
The latter was a decent enough third behind Augustin at Naas on his latest outing and that form was franked when the third, Miss Mardan, won at Navan on Sunday.
But Castello Sforza was fourth in last term's Champion Bumper and has made the frame in two hot maidens since going jumping.
Elliott will be hoping to start the meeting with a bang as Knockmaole Boy attempts to go one better than he did on his jumping bow in the opening maiden hurdle.
I wouldn't be overly anxious to take a short price about this ex-inmate of Jim Culloty's yard and would suggest that both Agent Boru and the Barry Geraghty-partnered newcomer Beginningtogetup are likelier winners of this maximum-sized contest.
The title-chasing trainer must have better chances with such as Calin Des Ongrais, runner-up to Swift at Navan last month, in the stronger of the two handicap hurdles, as well as newcomer Stooshie in the four-year-old bumper.
Calin Des Ongrais could have most to fear from such as Dawn Raider and Returntovendor while Patrick Mullins rides Early Doors, by Soldier Of Fortune, for Joseph O'Brown in the bumper and might have to be respected.
She'llbeallright beat Think Of Me at Fairyhouse last month and they cross swords again in the 80-95 handicap hurdle, while Miss Eyecatcher might get her turn over Just Janice and the consistent Freeway Space in the mares' maiden hurdle.
Selections: Neville Ring
1.55 Agent Boru
2.25 Apple's Jade
3.00 Castello Sforza (Nap)
4.00 Miss Eyecatcher
4.35 Calin Des Ongrais (Dbl)
Selections: Next Best
3.30 Think Of Me
4.00 Just Janice
4.35 Dawn Raider
5.10 Early Doors