Mullins relishing 'ideal time' for another Faugheen scalp
Only one jockey has ever experienced a victory at the expense of Faugheen and he is hopeful of doing it again on Sunday at Leopardstown.
David Mullins, 20, is to partner Petit Mouchoir, one of six horses left in at yesterday's five-day stage for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle.
Faugheen, which is set to take his chance if he satisfies trainer Willie Mullins in his work beforehand, is to make his seasonal debut. On his first start last term he suffered defeat for the only time, at Punchestown at the hands of stablemate Nichols Canyon, brilliantly ridden from the front by David, a nephew of Willie.
And his replacing Bryan Cooper, who is injured, aboard the grey has been confirmed by both trainer Henry de Bromhead and Gigginstown's racing manager Eddie O'Leary.
Mullins, who won the Grand National aboard the Mouse Morris-trained Rule The World last April, said: "I schooled Petit Mouchoir Monday and he felt very good. Well able go a good gallop, he looks an ideal two-miler.
"I'd say it'll be a case of doing the same thing as Bryan did at Christmas: bounce out and go a gallop. It looks the ideal time to catch Faugheen. Petit Mouchoir is still a young horse too." Asked what it was like beating him last season, the rider quipped: "I didn't see a whole lot of Faugheen that day!"
Faugheen produced arguably the finest performance of his career to claim this Grade One 12 months ago, destroying Nichols Canyon, but he has been injured since and only recently began to please his trainer at home.
"His work has been good but fitness could be an issue," the champion trainer said on Monday. "We took the view with him this season we'd take our time and get him right for the spring."
Mullins has won Sunday's race six successive times, five with Hurricane Fly. He has also left in Footpad, Ivan Grozny and Nichols Canyon. Nichols Canyon comes into the race with a bit to prove after being slammed by Petit Mouchoir at Christmas. Joseph O'Brien's Ivanovich Gorbatov, third that day, completes the confirmations.
O'Brien concedes that his horse is up against it: "He has been running quite well and we are hoping to pick up some prize-money, realistically."
Mullins is responsible for five of the remaining eight in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase. Min is set to go off favourite, though the trainer could also run American Tom, Bleu Et Rouge, Royal Caviar and Listen Dear.
He said: "It's very hard this time of year to find races for horses so I'll run at least two. Min can be hard on himself at home. I don't set him stern tests at home - we leave that for the track."
David Mullins, set to ride Identity Thief, reports him to be in good form.
Vroum Vroum Mag is a surprise entry in the olbg.com Doncaster Mares' Hurdle after the race was reopened due to insufficient numbers.
Ar Mad won't tackle the Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham, also on Saturday, which was moved from Ascot's frozen-off meet last weekend.
Mullins had stated that Un De Sceaux would make the journey but Ar Mad's trainer Gary Moore said: "We'll save him for Ascot and step him up in trip for the Ascot Chase in February."