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Sunday 4 December 2016

Punchestown 2015: Faugheen to keep the Mullins machine ticking over

Faugheen
Faugheen

There was some suggestion on Wednesday evening that Jezki could indeed be declared a non-runner from yesterday’s World Series Hurdle and instead take his chance again Faugheen this afternoon.

However, not enough rain fell for that decision to be made and Faugheen now looks set to have a fairly straightforward task ahead of him in the Queally Group Celebrating 35 Years In Naas Punchestown Champion Hurdle later today.

It’s already been a sensational week for the Mullins team and there’s little to suggest the penultimate day of the meeting is going to be any different.

Even if Faugheen does somehow get overturned the formbook would suggest that it will be Mullins who picks up the pieces anyway as Arctic Fire takes his chance after that crashing Aintree fall which thankfully wasn’t as bad as it initially looked.

But there really is little to think that Faugheen can get overturned. So far unbeaten in his entire career, the horse that Willie Mullins described as nothing special to look at when he went to buy him after two starts, could go on to be a prominent fixture in horse racing folklore if he keeps this flawless record intact.

In a week that saw Rich Ricci land his first Grade One in Ireland this season with Douvan on Tuesday, all the signs are that he is set for a memorable end to the season with Faugheen today and Annie Power tomorrow.

Elsewhere on today’s card, the other Grade One looks certain to be heading Closutton way as well as Nichols Canyon seems to set the standard in the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle.

In a race that will now have just six runners, with No More Heroes out, it’s hard to pick anything else beating Nichols who was third behind Windsor Park and a winner at Fairyhouse.

The other novice hurdle on the card doesn’t look as straightforward and while the champion trianer may well hold the key here too with his two runners, an each-way alternative is Des McDonogh’s Theophilus. The four-year-old Leopardstown winner only gets an 8lbs allowance and is probably the least experienced but maybe also the least exposed and, hopefully, he’ll be in the first three.

It’ll be interesting to see how Cheltenham winner Irish Cavalier runs in the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase after finishing fourth in the Grade One here earlier this week but Fine Rightly (pictured) is the back for Stuart Crawford and Davy Russell on the basis that a couple of his novice runs look above average and he may just have a kind handicap mark.

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