Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins is a targeting a return for Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown later this month.
The 2015 Champion Hurdle winner has not been seen on a racecourse since his success in the Irish Grade One contest in 2016. A leg injury meant he was unable to defend his crown in the leading 2m hurdle race at the Festival last season, while he has already missed the opening half of this campaign with the same problem.
Faugheen via Twitter
Despite his 12-month absence, Faugheen remains the favourite to win the 2017 Champion Hurdle for those looking to place a bitcoin sport bet on Mullins’ runner. A win at Leopardstown would certainly ensure the bookmakers cut his odds at the Festival as punters will have more confidence backing the former nine-year-old if he looks like he has shaken off his injury.
Since making his debut in a national hunt flat race in 2013, Faugheen has only once suffered defeat under rules. That sole loss came in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle in 2015 where Nichols Canyon got the better of his stablemate by half a length on his seasonal reappearance.
If Faugheen does come out of the Irish Champion Hurdle well, it may lead to Annie Power being aimed at either the Mares’ Hurdle or the Stayers’ Hurdle so the two horses who are both owned by Rich Ricci avoid each other at the meeting.
Annie Power took her chance in the Champion Hurdle in 2016 because of the injury to Faugheen. She beat the field which was headed by My Tent of Yours by over four lengths in an impressive performance against the opposite sex. The daughter of Shirocco remains in the 2017 Champion Hurdle in case Faugheen suffers another setback but an announcement on her plans is likely to be made by her connections as close to the Festival as possible.
The challenge against either of Mullins’ duo of horses is likely to be headed by Yanworth. Alan King’s runner is two from two in his campaign so far. He started off in the Ascot Hurdle, where he wasn’t fluid over the obstacles but still managed to prevail by half a length ahead of Lil Rockerfeller. He then improved for that outing in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day over the shorter trip of 2m where he scored by over three lengths.
Kempton Park via Twitter
Yanworth was the red hot favourite to win the Neptune Investment management Novices’ Hurdle at the 2016 Festival but was beaten there by Yorkhill. This will be his third appearance at the prestigious national hunt meeting as he also featured in the Champion Bumper in 2015.
Faugheen could meet one of his Champion Hurdle rivals in his opening run of the season at Leopardstown as Petit Mouchoir is scheduled to take part for Henry De Bromhead. He picked up his maiden Grade One success in the Ryanair Hurdle last month where he upset the odds-on favourite Nichols Canyon.
All the headlines will be about whether Faugheen runs or not later this month. If he does make it to the course, will he be as good as the horse which won the 2015 Champion Hurdle?