Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Mullins 'relief' as Faugheen return sets up festive targets

Hillcrest Fire, with Joshua Moore up, slips on landing at the last fence before recovering and going on to win The Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle at Leicester yesterday. Photo: PA
Hillcrest Fire, with Joshua Moore up, slips on landing at the last fence before recovering and going on to win The Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle at Leicester yesterday. Photo: PA

Thomas Kelly

Willie Mullins is considering options in Ireland and England as he plans Faugheen's next race.

The nine-year-old made his first outing since winning last year's Irish Champion Hurdle - an absence of 665 days - a triumphant one with an emphatic success in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last Sunday.

Although plans for the Rich Ricci-owned gelding remain fluid, the Closutton handler has identified both the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on St Stephen's Day - which he won in 2014 and 2015 - and the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 29, as potential targets.

Mullins said: "It was great to see him back in action. It was a great relief to have him back and a relief to get him on the racetrack. He seems to have come out of the race well, which is very pleasing.

Ability

"Nearly every horse gets an injury of some description, but certainly seeing what he did (at the weekend) probably makes you realise how hard it is to get a horse of that class that can retain that ability after a lengthy time off.

"I think it was above expectations. I was hoping to get him back and run sound and I certainly didn't expect him to do anything like that.

"If he was beaten through race fitness, I would not have been surprised. He had horses that were in against him that were very fit and had winning form all over the place. He just showed his class.

"It was great to have him back for the Morgiana, as that is where you want your top hurdlers to start.

"There is nothing planned at the moment, but the Christmas Hurdle and the Ryanair Hurdle are two races we are looking at."

Although the multiple Grade One winner was without his regular partner Ruby Walsh, who suffered a broken leg in a fall at Punchestown last Saturday, Mullins reported the 12-times Irish champion jockey was delighted with his performance.

Mullins added: "Ruby was very pleased. Obviously he was very disappointed not to ride him, but he was very pragmatic and is now just looking forward to dealing with his recuperation period. He is very straightforward like that. I'm lucky to have the sort of talent like Paul (Townend) and Patrick (Mullins) there as well."

Meanwhile, Douvan is on course to make his long-awaited return to action in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.

Mullins is favouring an outing in the Grade One contest on December 9 over an outing in either the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase or the Hilly Way Chase at Cork.

The eight-times Grade One winner has been sidelined since sustaining a stress fracture to his pelvis when finishing down the field in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March, losing his unbeaten record over fences in the process.

Elsewhere, Gordon Elliott could not be happier with Death Duty ahead of the exciting novice chaser's next assignment at Fairyhouse.

The six-year-old gelding has hitherto looked a natural over fences and will run in the Drinmore Novice Chase in early December.

Elliott said: "He's heading straight to the Drinmore. He's in great form. I couldn't be happier with him and he's bouncing. It'll be a good race as there are a brilliant bunch of staying chasers this year."

Stablemate Apple's Jade is also on track for the same two-day meeting after a winning return to action in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan.

The Co Meath handler delivered less palatable news regarding Grade One-winning chaser Don Poli, which is out for the season with a leg injury.

Irish Independent

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