Willie Mullins upbeat on Faugheen ahead of Irish Champion Hurdle

Willie Mullins has issued an upbeat report on Faugheen ahead of his intended appearance in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday week.

The 10-year-old appeared to have lost none of his brilliant ability when making a successful return from a near-two-year absence in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November, but suffered a shock defeat in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over the festive period.

Although no obvious excuse has come to light, Mullins is keeping his fingers crossed he can show his true colours to claim his second Irish Champion Hurdle success.

He told At The Races: “He did a nice little bit this morning and I’m happy with him.

“If all goes well between now and then (Irish Champion Hurdle) there’s a good chance he’ll line up there.

“He had an off-day and hopefully that will be the only off-day he’s going to have. Hopefully we can get him back to himself.”

Faugheen is a best priced even-money favourite for the feature event on the opening day of the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival.

Meanwhile Mullins’ ante-post favourite Footpad is one of 28 entries for the Racing Post Arkle Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham.

Footpad has looked imperious over fences to date and sets a good standard. Owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede also have a strong second string in Alan King’s Sceau Royal, who is due to run at Doncaster this weekend.

Ballyandy, Brain Power, Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados are others among the possibles.

There are 59 entries for the JLT Novices’ Chase, with Yanworth (King), Benatar (Gary Moore), Invitation Only (Mullins), Sutton Place (Gordon Elliott), Willoughby Court (Ben Paulong) and Terrefort (Nicky Henderson) ranking as leading contenders.

The RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase has attracted 62 entries, with the likes of Black Corton (Paul Nicholls), Finian’s Oscar (Colin Tizzard), Monalee (Henry de Bromhead), Fountains Windfall (Anthony Honeyball) and Presenting Percy (Patrick Kelly) in the mix.

There are also several engaged in both the JLT and RSA, including Willoughby Court and Yanworth.

Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon is also in both races, and the trainer said: “Snow Falcon is in good form at present and the plan is to go for the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown on February 4.

“We have put him in the two races at Cheltenham. I suppose his run in the Flogas will give us more of an idea, although, at this stage, I would say the RSA looks more up his street, but we will see.

“Touch wood, he has been jumping fences better than he jumped hurdles, which is encouraging because he was a good hurdler. Fingers crossed, he can keep going the right way.”



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