Samcro-Faugheen duel for Punchestown
The possibility of a mouthwatering clash between Samcro and Faugheen at Punchestown on Sunday remains on the cards after both stood their ground for the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott has already confirmed his intention to send Samcro to the Grade One contest - in which he will bid to restore his lofty reputation, having surprisingly been beaten on his return to action at Down Royal.
Winner of this race 12 months ago, former Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen was last seen producing something like his brilliant best over three miles at the Punchestown Festival in April. He's one of five possibles for trainer Willie Mullins with Melon, Sharjah, Wicklow Brave and high-class mare Laurina all in the mix.
Punchestown Champion Hurdle victor Supasundae represents Jessica Harrington, with Samcro's stablemate Tombstone completing the eight entries.
Ruby Walsh will have the pick of the Mullins runners, and told 'Racing UK': "Samcro is going to run - we've left Melon, Faugheen and Laurina in, and I'm sure Willie will finalise plans in the week as to what we are going to take on Samcro with.
"The three of them worked this morning. They all seem to be in good form, and I imagine they'll work again on Thursday and see how they are on Friday morning.
"But they all seem to be in good old order. They're coming along and improving by the week, so hopefully this weekend will be a bit better than last weekend."
Asked about Melon, Walsh said: "He improved throughout the season last year. Obviously he fell at the same hurdle as Samcro at Punchestown, but he looks really well and is a fine, big horse. We're really pleased with him.
"Faugheen is in good order, too. I know he went to three miles last year, but he's in really good order at the moment. Willie said he was leaving him in, and I didn't ask any more questions."
Elliott, meanwhile, hopes the outing at Down Royal, where Samcro was second to Bedrock in the WKD Hurdle, will have been to his benefit.
"I've been happy with him at home for the last week and he has come out of Down Royal in good shape and hopefully that run will bring him on fitness wise," the Cullentra maestro said.
"Jack (Kennedy) is suspended and it won't be until later in the week that we will finalise riding arrangements."