Huge blow as Willie Mullins' Faugheen and Min are ruled out of the Cheltenham festival
Willie Mullins has been dealt a hammer blow with the news that both Faugheen and Min will miss the Cheltenham Festival.
Faugheen won the Stan James Champion Hurdle at the 2015 Festival, but an injury sustained after winning the 2016 Irish Champion Hurdle ruled him out of defending his Cheltenham crown.
The nine-year-old has suffered a couple of minor problems this term, meaning his intended comeback was delayed until the Irish Champion Hurdle last month.
However, another issue saw him pulled out of the race 24 hours before the event and while Mullins initially thought Faugheen had a muscle problem, the setback has proved more serious.
"We had hoped Faugheen had just tweaked a muscle, but we've had it checked out and it's a stress fracture," said Mullins.
Min also missed an intended outing in the Irish Arkle at the end of last month and Mullins has confirmed the Grade One winner will also be an absentee in the Cotswolds next month.
He added: "Min has a bruise. Hopefully both will still make the track this season."
Mullins continued: "It's a real shame with Faugheen, we needed everything to go right and obviously it hasn't.
"There are options at Fairyhouse and Punchestown for Min, hopefully he makes one of them, while we'll try to get Faugheen ready for Punchestown."
Stan James make Buveur D'Air their new 7-2 favourite for the Champion Hurdle.
It has been quite a week for Nicky Henderson's charge, given seven days ago he was seemingly bound for the JLT Novices' Chase.
Henry de Bromhead's Petit Mouchoir and Alan King's Yanworth, himself under a little injury cloud, are next best at 4-1.
Mullins' Yorkhill, winner of the Neptune Novices' Hurdle last season, is now as low as 5-1, although he would need to be supplemented for the race.
Stan James' Brett Williams said: "In what was already a pretty volatile market for the Champion Hurdle, today's news that Faugheen will not bid to regain his crown has at least made things much clearer for bookmakers and punters alike, and having been available at 16-1 just seven days ago, Buveur D'air is now our clear 7-2 favourite for the hurdling crown with Petit Mouchoir and Yanworth next best at 4-1.
"We've seen steady money for Yorkhill and, while he has to be supplemented, he's now into 5-1, and it would not be beyond the realms of possibility for Willie Mullins to follow the Nicky Henderson trail of thought and switch last year's Neptune winner back to the smaller obstacles too!"