Willie Mullins remains ‘surprised’ by Faugheen’s defeat to Nichols Canyon

Willie Mullins remains “surprised” by Faugheen’s defeat by stablemate Nichols Canyon in the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday.

The Champion Hurdle hero was sent of 1-6 in a field of five to stretch his 100% record but could not get to grips with Nichols Canyon in the closing stages and went down by half a length.

Mullins saddled the first three home in the Grade One, with Wicklow Brave just a length and a quarter back in third, yet the Carlow handler is still scratching his head at Faugheen’s shock defeat. “The three of them have come out of the race well. We’re happy with them,” said Mullins.

“We won’t know if we have underestimated Nichols Canyon until his next run but we could easily have.

“Nothing’s come to light. Looking at Faugheen’s work last week we couldn’t see Faugheen being beaten by Nichols Canyon.

“It was a surprise. Maybe the work just brought on Nichols Canyon more than Faugheen.

“They will just all be well entered up and we’ll make a plan in the next week or two.”

Meanwhile, Vautour could make his eagerly-awaited seasonal debut in the Stella Artois 1965 Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

Mullins has given the exciting six-year-old an entry in the Grade Two contest over an extended two miles and five furlongs.

“I’ve put him in at Ascot and I’m happy with him,” said Mullins.

Vautour, a Cheltenham Festival winner for the last two years, won three of his four starts over fences term which culminated in his fantastic JLT Novices’ Chase success in March.

As well as at Ascot, he also holds entries next month in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase and in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Ptit Zig is set to line up following his recent victory in the Powers Irish Whiskey Chase at Down Royal.

Trainer Paul Nicholls reports his talented six-year-old in good form but that he will need to improve should Vautour cross the Irish Sea.

“He is fine since coming back from Ireland but he wants to be fine, and to find a bit more, if Vautour comes over,” said Nicholls.

Vautour looks to have frightened away some potential opposition as the race has been re-opened until today due to insufficient entries.

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