herald

Thursday 24 January 2019

Faugheen will have to be 'right up to his best' to have a hope

THE ONE TO BEAT: Apple’s Jade will take on Faugheen at Leopardstown today
THE ONE TO BEAT: Apple’s Jade will take on Faugheen at Leopardstown today

Apple's Jade clashes with Faugheen in a fascinating renewal of the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Gordon Elliott's Apple's Jade has looked imperious so far this season, banishing the memory of her defeats at Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring.

A routine victory on her return to action in the Lismullen Hurdle set her up perfectly for the Hatton's Grace, where she sauntered to a 20-length win over Supasundae.

She is stepping back up in trip - but having won this race on her only previous try over three miles last year that should not be an issue.

"Apple's Jade was very good the last day. Let's hope she can do the same again. She's in good form," said Eddie O'Leary, racing manager for her owners, Gigginstown House Stud.

Silks

The maroon silks will also be carried by Cracking Smart, not sighted since finishing second to Next Destination in a Grade One Novice Hurdle at Naas in January.

Faugheen was expected to make a winning return in the Morgiana Hurdle, but it did not go to plan as his stablemate Sharjah breezed past him.

Previously he had looked as good as ever up to three miles at Punchestown and Willie Mullins will be hoping the step back up in trip works the oracle.

"If he can reproduce his performance from Punchestown, he'll put it up to Apple's Jade, but she was exceptional the last day in Fairyhouse and will probably be hard to beat," said his son and assistant, Patrick.

"However, she's probably best going right-handed.

"Faugheen is going to have to run right up to his best, right up to what he did at Punchestown in April, to beat her."

Mullins also runs Bapaume and Shaneshill.

The remaining two runners are owned by JP McManus in former champion hurdler Jezki for Jessica Harrington and Early Doors for Joseph O'Brien.

Annamix, who has had the burden of being ante-post favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle for the past two seasons, finally makes his Irish debut at Limerick today.

Trained by Willie Mullins, the dogs were barking his name in the summer of 2017 - but injury prevented him from making the track all season.

Spot

Yet again Annamix has reclaimed the top spot in the market for the Cheltenham Festival opener, and his connections have admitted it is a relief to finally take the wraps off him in the Future Ticketing.ie Maiden Hurdle.

"Finally we have him out!" said Patrick Mullins.

"It looks a nice place to start him off - no horse in there has won a race.

"Looking at it, it's a nice starting point, and we'd be disappointed if he can't win."

Mullins will have mixed emotions, however, because he owns a runner against Annamix.

"I'm riding at Leopardstown, but I actually own Accidental (in training with Mags Mullins) - who is the 'illegitimate' son of Airlie Beach," he said.

A Grade One winner for Mullins, Airlie Beach was in a field before her racing days with what the Mullins understood was a gelding. The name of the resulting progeny goes a fair way to explaining that he was not.

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