Faugheen confirmed for date with destiny at Dublin Racing Festival
2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen heads a high-class field of eight runners for Saturday's BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
Willie Mullins' hurdling star bids to bounce back from a shocker at the Foxrock track over Christmas but the 'Machine' will have to be in top gear as stable-mate Melon and English raider Defi Du Seuil oppose him in the €150,000 contest.
Trained by Philip Hobbs, Defi Du Seuil will be ridden by British Champion jockey Richard Johnson who is bidding for his first Grade 1 success at Leopardstown since his famous victory on Florida Pearl in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup 14 years ago.
Faugheen and Melon are vying for favouritism but champion trainer Mullins will also run Bapaume while Mick Jazz – winner of the the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle over course and distance – carries the hopes of Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell.
Gold Cup-winning trainer Jessica Harrington is doubly represented by Supasundae, the mount of Robbie Power, while Mark Walsh rides 2014 Champion Hurdle hero Jezki and last year’s winning trainer Henry De Bromhead saddles Identity Thief.
Seven runners will go to post for the Grade 2 Coral Dublin Chase and all eyes will be on the duel between stable-mates Min and Yorkhill but the Nicky Richards-trained Simply Ned, who loves it around Leopardstown, could upset the Mullins duo and is their chief danger.
Elsewhere, the clash of of Footpad and Petit Mouchoir - high-class hurdlers which are both unbeaten over fences - makes the Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase an intriguing renewal while the opening Grade 1, the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle, features the Elliott-trained Dortmund Park, Mullins’ Fabulous Saga and De Bromhead’s Dicey O’Reilly.