Two-mile king Faugheen primed for Punchestown return
Faugheen's recent work on the Curragh gallops convinced Willie Mullins the Champion Hurdle hero is ready for action at Punchestown on Sunday.
Unbeaten in 10 starts under Rules, the gifted seven-year-old is one of six contenders, including stablemates Nichols Canyon and Wicklow Brave, for the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle.
Mullins' track record in the Morgiana is particularly impressive as the County Carlow handler has won the Grade One for the last four years - three times with the great Hurricane Fly and once with Thousand Stars in 2011.
"Faugheen is very, very well and I was very taken with his work recently," said Mullins.
"He worked very well the other day at the Curragh.
"I was more than pleased with him."
Regular jockey Ruby Walsh echoed those sentiments as Faugheen has his first outing since he won the Punchestown Champion Hurdle in May.
"He's in really good order," Walsh told Racing UK.
"John Codd, who rides Faugheen all the time, is very happy with him and he looks really well.
"He won very well in Kempton (Christmas Hurdle) last year, I don't see why he wouldn't go back there.
"He'll go to Punchestown and we'll start making plans after that."
Nichols Canyon is the second-highest-rated horse in the field after winning four Grade Ones since last November for owners Andrea and Graham Wylie.
Mullins also seems sweet on Wicklow Brave, who should be fitter than most after he finished an honourable third on the Flat in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot last month.
"We were planning on turning him out and then I just said the Morgiana is coming up and there's always only a handful of runners," said Mullins.
"I said to Nick Peacock, his owner, that maybe we should just keep him in.
"He's fit and well and seems none the worse for his Flat runs so he's definitely there on merit, too, as he's the third-highest-rated horse in the race."
Identity Thief, trained by Henry de Bromhead and owned by Gigginstown House Stud, looked pretty good when he won the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal late last month, while the JP McManus-owned duo of Plinth (Aidan O'Brien) and Thomas Edison (Tony Martin) complete the sextet.