We must be realistic about Faugheen
Cheltenham is always his main target and Ruby will appreciate that
Finally, we have him back! Faugheen gets to show his stuff in tomorrow's BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (3.30) and we're happy with him. He is as forward as we can get him.
However, I must stress that he hasn't run in a year, which is not the same as coming back off summer break. He's been training all winter but the way Petit Mouchoir runs - hard from the front - it will make life difficult.
Ruby Walsh will have March as the main aim on his mind. Hopefully Faugheen's raw ability gets him through but I wouldn't be despondent if he were beaten.
Nichols Canyon did not run to his best at Christmas and nothing showed up. He may be better going right-handed as he jumps right and also his form suggests he is better on slower ground so they are two little negatives. A seven-time Grade One winner, if he brings his A-game it'll be an awful lot closer between him and Petit Mouchoir.
Footpad is a typical ex-juvenile: he is hard to place. We'll look to France in the spring for him.
Min may have gotten a bang on his knee in his stable - no big problem but bad timing - and he should have an easy few days. He misses the Irish Arkle (2.30) but we've good back-ups.
Bleu Et Rouge was deliberate in his jumping at Christmas but it was phenomenal the ground he made up between the last two. He can give Identity Thief something to think about. Horses can get a fright and it looked like that last time when he was very careful. Barry Geraghty was happy with how he schooled since and Identity Thief has the same worry as he has. Royal Caviar is the opposite. He does not have the raw ability of Bleu Et Rouge but his jumping is a huge asset at this trip; it can put the others under pressure.
Melon (1.30) has been on everyone's lips! His work is very good, his schooling too. It doesn't look the strongest maiden; I'd be disappointed if he were beaten. He is a tall, narrow chestnut.
Kemboy, Let's Dance and Montalbano represent us in the novice hurdle (2.0). Let's Dance looks the one on ratings under Ruby and I think she's our best chance. The trip is no problem, she's a second-season novice with an experience edge and getting weight. She should take beating.
Kemboy has plenty of speed. The Limerick form may not amount to much but he's better than the bare detail and drying ground will suit. Montalbano won over course and trip at Christmas. Again he wears a hood and, while he can be a bit keen, his work suggests he's a stayer.
King's Wharf (3.0) has a big chance dropping back in trip; it could be the making of him. I think he'll run a very big race. Willie decided to put Paul Townend up, saving Ruby for Faugheen. Despite his fall last time he's a fine jumper.
In a hot bumper (4.30) I ride Debuchet. He ran very well at Naas and got tired in the last 100 yards so he should come on from that. He worked very well under me since.
Let's not forget Naas. Briar Hill comes back from a fall in the feature (2.35). He has stacks of ability but no luck. Haymount should improve at three miles. I rode him at Christmas when second to Bellshill and jumping is his forte - hence he is better over fences. I'd like to be on him.
Ivan Grozny has done nothing but improve and he's reunited with David Mullins in the Limestone Lad Hurdle (1.30), David having won on him at Aintree. He is entitled to win and the drying ground should be in his favour. David is a big positive, the form he is in. He is annoyingly talented; he seems to get on particularly well with horses and girls. He's not an ideal younger cousin to have.
Augustin's bumper form got a nice boost since. The distance and ground will suit. He has schooled well and hopefully he can get off the mark in the maiden (2.0).
In the bumper (4.20), For Syl has had her problems. A big ask taking on geldings, she should improve.
NAAS 1.30 Ivan Grozny 2.00 Augustin 2.35 Haymount
LEOPARDSTOWN 1.30 Min 2.00 Let's Dance 2.30 Bleu Et Rouge 3.00 King's Wharf 3.30 Faugheen 4.00 Debuchet