Faugheen's return brings early cheer
'Machine' may not go into overdrive but it's just great to have him back
It's easy as we get older to forget the child-like excitement of Christmas when you are young but all of us at Closutton have that feeling burning through us at the moment with the imminent return of The Machine.
The wait for Santa is only ever 12 months but we've been waiting 22 for Faugheen.
He has had a host of small niggly problems. He was in training all of last season but, every time we tightened the screws near a run, something small would go amiss.
He was never 100 per cent and Willie decided to err on the side of caution, despite the Trainers' Championship race being so close.
He stayed in training later than the rest of our winter team and had a shorter summer holiday, so we are happy he is ready to do himself justice in Punchestown tomorrow.
The last time we saw him he was in his prime and delivered one of the most devastating hurdling performances ever seen.
In destroying Arctic Fire and Nichols Canyon - both Cheltenham Festival winners since - he made everyone watching wonder how much could this Galactico achieve. Unfortunately, injury intervened and now he is returning to the fray a 10-year-old - old for the speed merchants that are Champion Hurdlers - and off a 22-month absence.
Despite his nickname, he isn't a machine and it isn't realistic to think that he can scale those exact heights again but even not at his prime he will be a force to be reckoned with this year.
John Codd, who rides and looks after him, has been seen sporting a wide smile after Faugheen's last few bits of work and that tells me all I need to know about his well-being for this weekend.
We send Vroum Vroum Mag into action with him. She is incredibly talented and versatile and provides strong back-up should something go amiss with Faugheen.
She is a Grade One and Cheltenham Festival winner in her own right and will provide a solid guideline to how much ability Faugheen still retains, as will former Champion Hurdler Jezki.
My mother, Jackie, rides her out every morning and I know where her loyalties will lie come 2.15 Sunday!
We run Steel Wave in the race after Faugheen. He has won around the track before and it's his first run for us but it is his first try over this three-mile trip. Nevertheless, we are expecting a bold show.
Mary Sun makes her debut for us in the 12.10 at Cork tomorrow. She is not the biggest but she has good Flat form and is by the same sire as Arctic Fire.
This is a hot race against geldings to begin her career but we feel she will be bang there at the business end.
Ruby returns today to ride Invitation Only on his chase debut. He was a very good bumper horse but last season over hurdles was disappointing for him.
He seems in good form at home and looks a real chaser so we hope to see him at his best as a novice chaser.
However, Monalee will be a stern opponent to overcome.
Burrows Saint is a gorgeous-looking new French horse for the Riccis. He is only four but has run over hurdles and fences in Auteuil. We will be disappointed if he can't start his Irish career with a win.
Let's Dance, one of our six Cheltenham winners last year, also starts off her season today.
Gordon Elliott's Barra was second to her in Cheltenham receiving 5lb.
She receives 10lb today and has the advantage of a run, so life won't be easy for Let's Dance.
It's a hugely exciting weekend for jumps fans with top-class horses everywhere but really it's all about one horse.
All eyes will be on Faugheen and hopefully he can prove he is still a superstar … and be sound come Monday morning!