Gordon Elliott is taking nothing for granted as his star mare Apple's Jade makes her seasonal reappearance in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan on Sunday.
The five-year-old won Grade One events at Aintree and Punchestown in spectacular style in the spring of 2016 when trained by Willie Mullins, but was one of the most high-profile horses to leave the champion trainer last autumn following a well-publicised split with Gigginstown House Stud.
She suffered a shock defeat on her first start for Elliott in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal 12 months ago and while she raised her game to win the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse, the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown, her trainer warns she could be rusty again following a six-month layoff.
"We're looking forward to starting her off. She always gets beat first time out, so she'll probably get beat on Sunday," Elliott told At The Races.
"It looks a competitive race and obviously Jer's Girl has got race fitness and is also getting 7lb off her.
"She's probably a little bit more forward than she was at this stage last season, I'd say.
"She's in good form and as fit as I can have her, but she will come on for the run."
Should Apple's Jade come through her comeback unscathed, a return to Fairyhouse on December 3 is likely to be on her agenda.
"I'd imagine the Hatton's Grace is where we'll go, all being well," Elliott added.
Apple's Jade faces just four rivals in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade Two, including stablemates Flaxen Flare and Duca De Thaix.
Gavin Cromwell saddles his dual Grade One-winning mare Jer's Girl, who has won a Roscommon maiden on the Flat and finished fourth behind former Champion Hurdle hero Jezki in the Istabraq Hurdle at Tipperary already this autumn.
Cromwell said: " Apple's Jade will obviously be hard to beat, but she is having her first run of the season, we've had a run and we're getting the 7lb allowance.
"We're happy with our mare, she's in good order and we're looking forward to stepping her back up to two and a half (miles).
"We'll see how she goes on Sunday before making any plans for the future."
The small but select field is completed by Noel Meade's veteran Monksland, who won a conditions hurdle at Thurles less than three weeks ago.
"We maybe have a bit of a fitness advantage, but there's also an age advantage as well and that's in favour of Apple's Jade," said Meade.
"Our horse is in good form and we thought when the race was cutting up there was a good chance of him at least getting some place prize-money.
"He likes Navan, so we'll see how we go."