THE APPLE OF HENDERSON'S EYE
Apple's Shakira, a full-sister to Apple's Jade, winner of the Grade One OLBG Mares' Hurdle at The Festival in March, was an impressive winner of the Grade Two JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle.
The three-year-old filly, the evens favourite, strode away from second-placed Gumball, a 5/4 chance, to win by 17 lengths in the colours of J P McManus. She was trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty.
Henderson said: "Barry has adored her from the first moment, but she is funny because she doesn't show you anything at home. I was petrified, the first bits of work she did, because I thought this was going to be rather special, but aaargh... But she does jump. Barry schooled her once and said, 'this is the fastest thing I have ever seen, for a three-year-old.' She's good. She's not big, but she's got a lovely temperament. It's only the second race of her whole life; there's lots to learn. She's still green. She jumps like a big horse. She's sweet. As long as they come and do it in the afternoon, I don't mind - far better than these flashy ones, whizzing past you in the morning and then not doing it in the afternoon. I'd rather this way round."
Asked whether she would be aimed at the most obvious target, the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival in March, Henderson replied: "I will get some instructions, I'm sure! This was soft ground, she enjoyed it; I must admit I don't think she'd want it too fast. I suppose that's where we finish up. She wants to learn a bit more so she won't be hiding in her stable. It depends what other juveniles they [McManus] have got.
"I haven't got many juveniles, to be fair - I've only run two, which are We Have A Dream [who won at Warwick on November 10] and Apple's Shakira - but the ones I've got are alright!
"I really just didn't know what was going to happen today. I hoped it would be something like that - you always had in your mind that it must be there somewhere, and to be fair I did just enquire as to how well Apple's Jade actually works at home, and I was quite pleased to hear that she doesn't show a whole lot either, so I was always hopeful that if the genes are right, we might be alright."
SHAKIRA THE APPLE OF GERAGHTY'S EYE
Jockey Barry Geraghty was looking to the future after Apple's Shakira ran away with the JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham this afternoon.
The three-year-old filly was always travelling sweetly through the rain softened ground and stalked long-time leader Gumball for the majority of the race, with her jockey patiently waiting until it was time to press the button on the even money favourite.
The response was instant when Geraghty asked Apple's Shakira for her effort and the pair scampered clear up the run-in to record a facile 17 length victory.
Geraghty was full of praise for the full-sister to Grade One winner Apple's Jade (winner of last season's OLBG Mares Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott at The Festival) immediately after the race.
"You could only be impressed with that - she's very good," said the jockey.
"She was green through the middle part of the race and jumped a bit big but she kept learning as she went. She ran all the way to the line though - she could have gone again at the end of the race.
"She was as much learning as responding. The penny only really dropped halfway through the race. She doesn't need much schooling as she's a natural and her work wouldn't be as flashy as most. She's got scope though and she covers the ground very well. She's got a great attitude - you can only love her. She has more to learn than Defi Du Seuil (who Geraghty rode to win this race last year and then to success in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival). He knew his job very well. This girl has a lot of talent but doesn't quite know her job yet.
"I said to Nicky (Henderson - trainer) that I've never ridden a three-year-old that is so physical - she's great. I'd say the ground is soft - if you handle it, you'd only think it's soft but if you don't, you'd say it's very soft."
GUMBALL RALLIES BUT TO NO AVAIL AS APPLE'S PROVES TASTY
JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial contender Gumball was strongly fancied to continue Philip Hobbs' excellent record with juvenile hurdlers, but he found the even-money winner Apple's Shakira far too good.
Gumball, a 5/4 chance ridden by Richard Johnson, attempted to make all, but was challenged by the winner heading for the final turn, and while he kept tabs on her around that bend he was unable to sustain his rally, and went down by 17 lengths. A further five lengths behind was third-placed Eragon De Chanay from Gary Moore's yard.
Hobbs said of the Terry Warner-owned Gumball: "I just think the winner is very good. Our horse was a little fresher than normal, which wasn't ideal, but the winner was clearly the better horse.
"It's getting quite testing out there, and Richard thought it was very soft, but our horse won on soft at Chepstow so we can't use that as an excuse."
Josh Moore, who rode Eragon De Chanay, said: "He ran a nice race - he's not the greatest standard, but he's a fun horse, and he could be a good handicap hurdler one day. He will definitely stay further and he may well want better ground."
JOCKEYS ON GROUND
The jockeys who rode in the first race on day two of The November Meeting 2017, the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle, gave their opinions on the ground.
Barry Geraghty, rider of the winner Apple's Shakira remarked: "It's soft - if you handle it, you only think it's soft, but if you don't, you'd say it's very soft."
Richard Johnson, jockey of the 17-length second Gumball, said: "It's soft."
Joshua Moore, riding third-placed Eragon De Chanay, commented: "Soft."
Tom O'Brien, partner of Speedo Boy (5th), remarked: "It's soft and loose ground."
Jonny Slevin aboard Apparition (6th), said: "It's soft ground all over."
12.40pm JCB Triumph Trial Hurdle (Grade 2)
1 APPLE'S SHAKIRA (J P McManus) Nicky Henderson 3-10-05 Barry Geraghty Evens Fav
2 Gumball (Terry Warner) Philip Hobbs 3-10-12 Richard Johnson 5/4
3 Eragon De Chanay (Five Star Racing Group) Gary Moore 3-10-12 Joshua Moore 28/1
Distances: 17, 5
Tote Win: £1.90 Places: £1.50; £1.10 Exacta: £2.80