El­liott ex­pects Jade to shine

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RACING -

GOR­DON EL­LIOTT ex­pects Ap­ple’s Jade to im­prove from her sea­sonal reap­pear­ance in the Lis­mullen Hurdle at Na­van to­day.

The top-class mare claimed this Grade Two event last sea­son on the way to suc­cess­fully de­fend­ing her crown in the Hat­ton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairy­house, and El­liott al­ready has one eye on a hat-trick bid at Fairy­house in three weeks’ time.

“I’m very happy with her,” he said. “She does tend to im­prove a good bit from her first run of the sea­son and our horses are need­ing their come­back runs this year, so what­ever she does on Sun­day I know there will be more to come from her.”

Ap­ple’s Jade won the Lis­mullen Hurdle, the Hat­ton’s Grace and the Christ­mas Hurdle at Leop­ard­stown in the first half of last sea­son, but could only fin­ish third be­hind the Wil­lie Mullins-trained Be­nie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle at Chel­tenham and the Mares Cham­pion Hurdle at Punchestown.

El­liott feels he has a vi­able ex­cuse for both of those be­low-par per­for­mances.

“We had an aw­ful prob­lem with her last year as she kept com­ing in sea­son every day she went rac­ing at the end of the sea­son. She did it at Punchestown and at Chel­tenham. We’re just try­ing to sort that out and hope­fully it’s all be­hind her now.

“There is no ar­gu­ment that she didn’t run her race at Chel­tenham or Punchestown. At the same time she needs to im­prove two or three lengths to be win­ning those races. We knew we had a few lit­tle prob­lems, so if we can rec­tify them we’ll be OK.”

El­liott has an in­ter­est­ing sec­ond string to his bow in Dort­mund Park, who was last seen win­ning the Grade One Cham­pion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Fes­ti­val. The trainer plans an­other year over hur­dles for him.

“He might be one that’ll have a go at the Hat­ton’s Grace as well, but I’d like to get a run into him be­fore.”

Henry de Brom­head’s dual Grade One win­ner Iden­tity Thief is a third con­tender for Gig­gin­stown House Stud, while Jes­sica Har­ring­ton’s 2014 Cham­pion Hurdle hero Jezki and Ed­die Harty’s high-class chaser Coney Is­land both carry the colours of JP McManus.

The field is com­pleted by Arc­tic Fire, who claimed this prize three years ago for the Mullins team.

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