Mullins team set for a small boost with Steel Wave
Willie Mullins had a very tough week at Leopardstown with the death of Nichols Canyon, and there was more cause for concern yesterday when Faugheen didn't fire and was pulled up, priced 2/11.
That's pushed him out to 6/1 to regain his Champion Hurdle crown in March, although I'm sure we will find out more from the camp over the next few days.
Racing can be a tough game at times, but the wheels keep on turning and I reckon Mullins can at least find some cheer at Punchestown tomorrow in the Buy Your Tickets Online Handicap Hurdle (2.40).
STEEL WAVE, which was trading at 4/1 yesterday, had his first run since leaving Garrett Power in November and it was a great training performance to come second after a couple of years off the racecourse.
A rating of 114 is not too harsh and he should go close, with Synopsis another one for the shortlist. That horse was raised 8lbs to 124 after winning a handicap hurdle here in November, but he might have more to come.
I'm also keen on Mullins's Grade One hurdle winner KILLULTAGH VIC around 9/4 in the Free Festival Upgrade Ticket Offer Hurdle (1.40).
Generally speaking, I'm not very enthusiastic about backing horses after such a long lay-off, some 714 days in this case, but I'm making an exception for the eight-year-old, who was starting to shine over fences, as the crack on his pelvis and a few other issues are said to be fully cleared up and he's now fit and well. He'll be hard to beat if he has retained most of his talent.
Mullins's losses have often been Gordon Elliott's gains this week, and Elliott can claim the opening Buy Your 2018 Annual Membership Beginners Chase (12.35) with MONBEG NOTORIOUS, priced at 7/4 or thereabouts.
A novice hurdle winner last term, he looks a nice chaser in the making and suggested there's more improvement to come when runner-up in two novice chases over the last month or so.