Faugheen faces a relatively straightforward task in the Queally Group Champion Hurdle at Punchestown this afternoon.
Unbeaten in all disciplines, he took his form to a new level when running out an impressive winner of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.
He holds stable companion Arctic Fire on that form and, while too short for most punters, he should have little trouble extending his perfect record.
Tandem looks the one to side with in the two-mile Novice Hurdle. Dermot Weld’s horse had a rating in excess of 100 on the flat, and was expected to make a winning start over hurdles at last summer’s Galway Festival. He could only manage third behind Most Peculiar there, but the form of that race worked out really well.
He shed his maiden status next time out at Navan, in September, and then took a big step up in grade for the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novices’ Hurdle at Fairyhouse. Well backed that day, he travelled into contention around the final bend but was unable to quicken and finished a well-beaten fifth behind Nichols Canyon. He hasn’t been seen since but today’s race represents a significant drop in class.
Market confidence will be a telling factor, but connections went close to winning the bumper on Wednesday, and this fellow has likely been aimed at this meeting, in the expectation of good ground. He should get that here and, with plenty of scope for improvement in this sphere, looks set to run a big race.
The interesting one against him is four-year-old Theophilus, who won a juvenile maiden on heavy ground at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting on his only start over hurdles to date. His flat form received a boost when Answered trounced his rivals in a Listed race at Limerick last weekend, and he clearly has plenty of scope. Quicker ground is an unknown but he deserves respect.
Nichols Canyon will be a strong favourite to land the Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle and, following an impressive display at Aintree, will take all the beating.
The ground is expected to dry out somewhat, which will play to his strengths and, if the effects of a hard season have not left a mark, it’ll take a big performance to lower his colours.
Stable companion Sempre Medici looked progressive when running away with a Grade 2 Hurdle at Fairyhouse, and further improvement would put him in the fold. Fast ground would be a concern, but he must be respected, and could be each-way value against the favourite.
It’s very difficult to oppose On The Fringe in the closing Racing Post Champion Hunters’ Chase.
The ten-year-old was a runaway winner of the Foxhunters’ Chase at Cheltenham, and similarly impressive at Aintree. He also ran away with this race in 2014, and it’ll be a huge surprise if he doesn’t take this race for the fourth time.The EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase looks super-competitive, but Mr Fiftyone looks sure to run well off a very low weight. Winner of his sole bumper, and smart in a short career over hurdles, he has shown plenty of promise in four outings to date over fences.
Last time, at Fairyhouse, he failed by little more than three lengths to give 17lbs to Ballyadam Approach, who was an easy winner here on Wednesday. The step up in trip shouldn’t be a problem, and the six-year-old should go very close, at decent odds.
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