Apple's Jade tastes sweet victory in Mares' Hurdle
Apple's Jade showed laudable battling skills to keep the Willie Mullins battalion at bay in the OLBG Mares´ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Gordon Elliott's mare (7-2) made much of the running, but looked like she had it to do once Vroum Vroum Mag edged ahead after the final flight, at which point the on-rushing Limini made a costly error when bang in the frame.
But Apple's Jade and Bryan Cooper were not having any of it and somehow clawed themselves back into the lead in the Gigginstown House Stud silks.
Vroum Vroum Mag was second, with Limini third.
Cooper said: "She's all heart. We were confident coming here.
"Gordon's a genius and I'm very lucky to ride for him."
Gigginstown owner Michael O'Leary said: "The racing at Cheltenham is very tough and I've never had a winner on a Tuesday here.
"I'm delighted for Gordon and his team - they've done a brilliant job - and I'm also delighted for Bryan Cooper."
O'Leary added: "They're three stunning mares.
"They (Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag) lost nothing in defeat, but Apple's Jade was just a very good winner. That was a good performance and a great ride by Bryan.
"This mare just stays. We had the option of running in the Champion Hurdle, but Gordon said she'd be taken off her feet. She battles and battles. She was great.
"Maybe the last run in Punchestown (when runner-up to Limini) just left her right."
Gordon Elliott was predictably thrilled, and s aid: "She was tough. We knew that the ground was going to suit her.
"Today was her Gold Cup. I put a tongue-strap on her for the first time and thankfully it worked out.
"We knew she would have come on a good bit for Punchestown and this was the plan.
"She is as tough as old boots. She will stay three three miles next year. I would imagine we will go to Punchestown."
Willie Mullins was left to curse his misfortune after a difficult day.
He said: "They are running well but have been unlucky. Both travelled good into the race and they had their chance. Both ran up to their form. I thought they each ran their race."
Rich Ricci, owner of Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini, was magnanimous in defeat.
He said: "It was a great race. Apple's Jade is a multi-winning Grade One winner. I think she's a very, very good mare and she wouldn't be out of place in the Champion Hurdle.
"I don't think there are any excuses. It was a great race, unfortunately we were on the losing end."