Apple's Jade ends Vroum Vroum's run in thriller
Eight days after she was agonisingly denied by Irving in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, Apple's Jade jumped back up off the canvas and knocked out Vroum Vroum Mag for the first time since she joined Willie Mullins. This was a barnstorming battle.
It was a brave call by Gordon Elliott to turn a four-year-old filly out again so quickly after her near miss at Newcastle. It was a brave feat by Bryan Cooper to recover so quickly from a crashing fall off Peace News in the Royal Bond. But the bravest of all was Apple's Jade who fought back tenaciously up the run-in to deny Vroum Vroum Mag an 11th triumph on the trot.
How ironic, too, that it was an ex-Willie Mullins inmate that ended the winning sequence and BoyleSports and Betfair reacted by cutting Apple's Jade into 2-1 favourite from 7-2 for the OLBG Mares Hurdle.
"Walking into the racetrack today, a few people were slating me for running her," Elliott said afterwards. "Obviously I'm in a lucky position to be training for the lads [Gigginstown] and they left the decision up to me. I weighed her this morning and she was actually heavier than what she weighed going to Newcastle last week.
"We said we would let her take her chance after that and, although I was under no pressure, it was great that it worked out. The mares' hurdle at Cheltenham is going to be her Gold Cup. That's her main aim. I'm not sure where she would run beforehand, there's a couple of races around February time that we could take in prior to Cheltenham."
Cooper, who rode Apple's Jade in a more prominent position than previously, hailed the mare's toughness.
"She is horrid tough. I made the call to ride Petit Mouchoir last week as I just felt the more the season went on, the more that Apple's Jade would improve. I didn't think for one minute that she would be running here today but I sat on her Tuesday morning and she was bouncing," Cooper said.
He added: "Gordon told me that I knew her better than anyone and to do my own thing. I knew she stays from last year. Greenness got her beaten in the Triumph and she just ran around a bit in front.
"I thought last year at Aintree that she wanted two and a half miles and she proved that today. She is only four and the World Hurdle over three miles may be a few years too early. There is a lovely mares hurdle at Cheltenham that will be ideal for her."
Just a short-head separated Apple's Jade and Vroum Vroum Mag at the line and they pulled seven lengths clear of Shaneshill in third.