Jer’s Girl can make it third time lucky in ex­cit­ing clash with Ap­ple’s Jade at Na­van

Rus­sell con­fi­dent he will ride at Naas af­ter X-ray re­sults show no breaks

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RACINGNEWS - Brian O’Con­nor Rac­ing cor­re­spon­dent

The jumps game has the stage to it­self once again and a mouth-wa­ter­ing clash of those star mares Ap­ple’s Jade and Jer’s Girl at Na­van to­mor­row in­di­cates how the big boys are com­ing out to play.

Ap­ple’s Jade is the star turn among 16 week­end run­ners for Michael O’Leary’s Gi­gin­stown Stud team through both Na­van and to­day’s ac­tion at Naas.

Ir­ish rac­ing’s other top owner, JP McManus, nu­mer­i­cally tops his great ri­val by one en­try and is en­ti­tled to be­lieve Jer’s Girl can make it third time lucky against Ap­ple’s Jade in the Grade Two Lis­mullen Hur­dle.

How­ever, both are trumped by Gor­don El­liott’s 22 starters over the two days as nor­mal ser­vice ap­pears set to re­sume at the top of the trainer’s ta­ble.

The tus­sle for the train­ers ti­tle be­tween El­liott and Wil­lie Mullins was a dom­i­nant thread through last sea­son and the old ri­vals are al­ready neck and neck at the top of the cham­pi­onship ta­ble with both on the verge of notch­ing a cen­tury of win­ners for the cur­rent cam­paign.

Paul Townend steps in for five Mullins rides as Ruby Walsh con­tin­ues his re­cov­ery from a hand in­jury.

Daryl Ja­cob will be on board the Grade One-win­ning hur­dle Foot­pad as he makes his de­but over fences to­mor­row. The Eng­land-based jockey ap­pears set for a hec­tic af­ter­noon as he is de­clared to ride at Sandown less than an hour and a half be­fore the Na­van con­test.

Foot­pad is one of a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of po­ten­tially top-class novices tak­ing their first steps of the win­ter cam­paign this week­end but it will be the third clash be­tween Ap­ple’s Jade and Jer’s Girl that takes cen­tre stage.

It’s al­most two years since O’Leary’s star edged out her ri­val on her Ir­ish de­but and the out­come at Chel­tenham last March was in­con­clu­sive with Jer’s Girl crash­ing out at the third last in the mares hur­dle when still trav­el­ling well.

On­slaught

Ap­ple’s Jade mem­o­rably with­stood a Mullins on­slaught at the end of that race and romped home sub­se­quently at Punchestown.

It’s worth re­call­ing though that the first of her three top-flight wins last sea­son, in the Hat­ton’s Grace, came af­ter two sur­prise de­feats.

Maybe that had some­thing to do with O’Leary’s high-pro­file move from Mullins and maybe now that El­liott knows Ap­ple’s Jade much bet­ter she will strip sharper for her first start of the sea­son.

How­ever, Jer’s Girl is def­i­nitely race fit, is suited by the race con­di­tions and it’s worth for­giv­ing her tame Tip­per­ary ef­fort last time as it came shortly af­ter an im­pres­sive win on the flat at Roscom­mon.

Na­van’s other Grade Two is the For­tria Chase in which the El­liott-O’Leary com­bi­na­tion has both Clar­cam and The Game Changer. If ground con­di­tions turn very test­ing though it could suit the north­ern stayer Fine Rightly who usu­ally trav­els well in his races.

Davy Rus­sell is con­fi­dent he will be okay for half a dozen rides at Naas af­ter X-rays re­vealed he hadn’t bro­ken any­thing in his foot af­ter a fall at Thurles on Thurs­day.

The sea­son’s lead­ing rider’s Naas book in­cludes the French im­port north­ern stayer Fine Rightly, a win­ner on the flat and over hurdles in Oc­to­ber of last year, in the Grade Three Fish­ery Lane Hur­dle.

Meri De­vie’s fil­lies al­lowance could prove the cru­cial fac­tor in this race.

Pal­lasator’s first start over flights will be the fo­cus of a lot of at­ten­tion in a maiden hur­dle but the for­mer high-class flat horse takes on some notably promis­ing bumper types in­clud­ing Paloma Blue.

To­day’s Be­gin­ners Chase could po­ten­tially throw up a

Jer’s Girl is def­i­nitely race fit and is suited by the race con­di­tions

real top-notch novice for the rest of the sea­son. Bac­ardys can boast Grade One win­ning hurdles form while Snow Fal­con has re­port­edly been a rev­e­la­tion in school­ing. De Plot­ting Shed sets a high stan­dard though af­ter his re­cent Gal­way run.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: INPHO

Ap­ple’s Jade is the star turn among 16 week­end run­ners for Michael O’Leary’s Gi­gin­stown Stud team at both Na­van and Naas.

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