Friday 28 October 2016

Punchestown 2015: Faugheen for glory

Mullin's charger looks primed to complete a Cheltenham/Punchestown double to remember

Ruby Walsh celebrates his victory on Faugheen
Ruby Walsh celebrates his victory on Faugheen

The Punchestown Champion Hurdle has been around for less than two decades but in that time it has done a very good job in hailing some heroes of the two-mile hurdling division and the Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen looks set to be the latest to complete the Cheltenham/Punchestown double.

Punchestown's ability to attract local sponsorship to the meeting has seen the Queally Group come in to back the feature on the penultimate day and while the number of runners may well be small the prospect of seeing the so far unbeaten Faugheen sign off the season at the Punchestown Festival is certainly worth making the trip to County Kildare for.

Faugheen hasn't run in Ireland since he won the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on the opening day of this meeting 12 months ago and as he prepares for green pastures for the summer months, punters will ponder whether or not we could just be looking at the next Istabraq or Hurricane Fly.

Not rushed into the deep end by Mullins, the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham was the first proper test of his first season out of novice company but he clearly passed that with flying colours, leading home a Mullins-trained 1-2-3.


Indeed, such is the fascinating affair we have in store for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle that the only downfall is tomorrow's feature probably suffered in terms of depth as a result.

Hurricane Fly and Jezki have both been redirected, although Jezki has been declared as a precautionary measure just in case there was a dramatic change to the ground so now the chief contender for Faugheen comes from his stable companion Arctic Fire who finished closest to him at Cheltenham last month.

Arctic Fire looks like gaining a well overdue Grade One triumph at Aintree until he took a crashing fall at the last hurdle and although Mullins is happy enough with the horse to let him take his chance, any hidden ill-effects from that fall won't be picked up until the heat of battle tomorrow afternoon.

Nobody would begrudge Arctic Fire a Grade One this season as he really has progressed through the ranks in a likeable way but providing Faugheen jumps off tomorrow, it would be a brave man to back against him and he is set to be very short odds, but justifiably so.

The field is completed by Gordon Elliott's former Triumph Hurdle winner Tiger Roll who has lacked the spark that saw him take the juvenile hurdling highlight last season and David Pipe's Dell' Arca will be the complete outsider of the field.


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