Faugheen expected to return in Irish Champion Hurdle


Former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen is expected to return to the racecourse later this month in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins.
As reported on the bet365 news site, Faugheen has been entered in the Champion Hurdle by his connections, suggesting their horse has recovered well from the leg injury which has kept him out of action for 12 months.
Faugheen rose to fame at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival when he won the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle in impressive style by over four lengths. He returned to the same meeting in 2015 to prevail in the Champion Hurdle where he made all in a dominant performance which brought up his fifth Grade One success.
The nine-year-old started his 2015/16 campaign with a defeat in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle where he was beaten by Nichols Canyon by half a length. He returned to action a month later in the Christmas Hurdle where he was back to his best again in a seven-length victory ahead of The New One at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Faugheen gave Mullins his sixth consecutive victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle in 2016. Hurricane Fly had dominated the contest since 2011 but with the former two-time Champion Hurdle winner now retired, it was the first opportunity for the son of Germany to capture the prestigious contest at Leopardstown. Mullins’ superstar can be backed at 5/4 to regain his Champion Hurdle crown in March. If he does run in the premier 2m hurdle race of the season, it is unlikely that his stablemate and last year’s winner Annie Power will defend her title as both horses are owned by Rich Ricci. The mare could run in the Stayers’ Hurdle over 3m where she finished second behind More Of That in 2015.
The challenge to Faugheen at Leopardstown is expected to be headed by the improving Petit Mouchoir from Henry De Bromhead’s yard. The six-year-old won the Grade One Ryanair Hurdle at the same track just three weeks ago where he beat the odds-on favourite Nichols Canyon and the reigning Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov.
Petit Mouchoir has had a mixed campaign so far. He could only finish third in his seasonal reappearance in the Grade Two WKD Hurdle, while he was travelling really well in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle where he looked to be picking the leaders up at Newcastle before falling at the third last fence.
The French-bred horse is quoted at 7/1 in the Champion Hurdle betting but will shorten for that race if he can get the better of Faugheen at Leopardstown or runs the defending champion close.
Apple’s Jade could also take on her opposite sex in the Irish Champion Hurdle on the back of an excellent victory in the Grade One Hatton’s Grace Hurdle where she held off a late challenge from Vroum Vroum Mag. All eyes will be on Faugheen though as his participation and performance in the Irish Champion Hurdle will have a significant impact on the betting for the Champion Hurdle at the Festival in March.