Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle
|Grade 1, Leopardstown 14:00
3m, Class 1
|Saturday 28th December 2019|
1 Apple's Jade 6/4J
2 Unowhatimeanharry 8/1
3 Penhill 5/1
7 ran Distances: 17l, 3¾l, 2¼l
Time: 6m 14.40s (slow by 35.40s)
Gordon Elliott’s Apple’s Jade had been well below her best for most of 2019, but there was late confidence in the market that she would return to something like the sparkling form she showed in the first half of last season and she was sent off the 6-4 joint-favourite with Bacardys.
Despite giving ground away by repeatedly jumping out to her right, Jack Kennedy kicked on a mile from home and Killultagh Vic could no longer live with her.
Unowhatimeanharry and Penhill tried to close running to the last, but Apple’s Jade had plenty left in reserve to win at the highest level for the 11th time, triumphing by 17 lengths. Despite her fine record, Apple's Jade arrived with questions to answer and owner Michael O'Leary later confirmed she would have likely been retired had she not won.
She had disappointed in the Champion Hurdle in March and was also beaten at Aintree and Punchestown.
In previous seasons, her best form had always come in the first half of the campaign, but when she was beaten in the Lismullen Hurdle and the Hatton's Grace this term, Elliott was left scratching his head.
However, back at her favourite track, where she is unbeaten, she showed the fire still burns brightly.
"If she hadn't run well today, she was going to be retired," said O'Leary.
"She jumped really well today - she was jumping out to her right, but she was making ground at her hurdles and seemed really keen.
"She was very lifeless at Fairyhouse and in Navan, which isn't like her. It looks like she's back, which is great.
"It's great for Gordon and it was a great training performance. Today is a great bonus, it's wonderful to see her back and I'd imagine she'll come back here in February."
Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle
3m , Race Value: €100,000, Grade 1
Going: Soft, Yielding in places
1 Apple's Jade 7 11-3 Gordon Elliott Jack Kennedy 6/4JF
2 17 Unowhatimeanharry 11 11-10 Harry Fry Barry Geraghty 8/1
3 3¾ Penhill 8 11-10 W P Mullins Robbie Power 5/1
4 2¼ Bacardys 8 11-10 W P Mullins Paul Townend 6/4JF
5 2¼ Killultagh Vic 10 11-10 W P Mullins Danny Mullins 14/1
6 12 Dommage Pour Toi 6 11-10 Henry De Bromhead Rachael Blackmore 14/1
PU Arkwrisht 9 11-10 J F Levins Ricky Doyle 100/1