Apple’s pips Vroum Vroum Mag
Apple's Jade edged out Vroum Vroum Mag as the mares dominated the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Bryan Cooper rode Apple's Jade to victory
Just eight days after coming off a narrow second-best in a tight finish for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, Gordon Elliott's winner showed her durability by proving that had left no mark on her.
Vroum Vroum Mag looked sure to oblige running to the second-last as Ruby Walsh appeared to have everything covered.
Bryan Cooper, who had taken a nasty-looking fall just half an hour earlier in the Royal Bond, was asking for everything on the Gigginstown House Stud-owned four-year-old and she kept on responding.
This was a return to something like the form which saw her win a Grade One by 41 lengths at Aintree last season, when she was trained by Willie Mullins, the man responsible for Vroum Vroum Mag.
Sent off at 4/1, Apple's Jade perhaps showed the advantage of race fitness in coming out on top in the photo finish, inflicting a first defeat on Vroum Vroum Mag in 11 races.
Cooper said: "I didn't think I'd be riding again after the fall, thank god the impact was on my left leg, the better of the two!
"She's so tough, I made the call last week (to ride Petit Mouchoir) and I maintain that was right, but she is progressing with each race.
"I didn't know she's be coming here last week but it was a fair call, she was bouncing and if she came back to her form of last year she had to have a chance.
"Gordon told me I knew her, I knew she stayed and last year at Aintree I felt she was a stayer.
"She's only four, maybe in two years she'll be a World Hurdle horse, this year the Mares' Hurdle over two-five might be her race, but I'll leave that to others to decide."
Elliott said: "It's great it worked out. She had a hard race last week, but I'm in a lucky position training for Gigginstown and they left it up to me – she actually weighed more than before she went to Newcastle.
"I'm delighted for Bryan as he needed that. She's so brave and I'd say she needs three miles before the season is out."
Gigginstown boss Michael O'Leary said: "Gordon wasn't going to run her, but she bounced out of Newcastle so well. I think she probably suffered a bit in the transition from Willie's to Gordon's and she probably wasn't fit enough first time at Down Royal.
"Newcastle brought her on a ton and Gordon said we either run here or over three miles at Christmas – we didn't want to do that so early.
"She'll have a break now until after Christmas, it's great for Gordon and great for Bryan and I have to say thanks to Willie and to Harold Kirk who bought her, without them we wouldn't own her.
"Bryan's having plenty of winners, but he's had an awful lot of injuries – it's always good to beat Ruby in a tight finish, it probably adds a bit of cream on top."
Sky Bet reacted by cutting the winner for three races at the Cheltenham Festival. Michael Shinners said: "Another cracking race at Fairyhouse and there really wasn't anything in it at the line. Apple's Jade is so tough and we've gone 2/1 the pair for the Mares' Hurdle, with Apple's Jade also cut from 20s to 14s for the Champion Hurdle and 25/1 to 16/1 for the World Hurdle.
"Three miles could be an interesting option as Gigginstown (Ryanair) sponsor the race this year."
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