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Willie Mullins' star trio eye Irish crown at Leopardstown

By Thomas Kelly

Published 19/01/2016

Top man: Willie Mullins wants Irish Champion Hurdle glory
Top man: Willie Mullins wants Irish Champion Hurdle glory

Willie Mullins has confirmed that his star-studded trio of Faugheen, Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire are all on track to run in Sunday's BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The unbeaten record of last year's Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen went up in smoke when he suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Nichols Canyon in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, but he then defended his Christmas Hurdle crown at Kempton.

Nichols Canyon also struck gold last month with a determined display in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown. But Arctic Fire - runner-up to legendary former stablemate Hurricane Fly in last year's Irish Champion before chasing home Faugheen at Cheltenham - is on a recovery mission after disappointing on his first start over three miles at Leopardstown over Christmas.

"They all appear good at the moment," said Mullins, who won the Grade One for the last five years with Hurricane Fly. "Hopefully they all stay that way and we'll see them all on Sunday."

The champion trainer also said that he is eager to learn more about Vroum Vroum Mag's potential Cheltenham Festival target if he allows Thomas Kellyher to line up in the Mares' Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

The seven-year-old is unbeaten in six starts over fences and was just as impressive when switched back to smaller obstacles at Clonmel last month.

"I'm very keen to bring her over for the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday," Mullins explained. "She's entered in the World Hurdle and the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the Festival and Saturday will help us decide which route to take."

Mullins, meanwhile, has reported that Killultagh Vic is none the worse after his remarkable victory at Leopardstown.

A winner over hurdles at both Cheltenham and Punchestown last spring, the seven-year-old Ulster horse was stepped up to Grade Two level on Sunday.

Everything appeared to be going according to plan until he sprawled on landing after jumping the final fence, but having seemingly lost all chance, he somehow got back up for a most unlikely victory under an inspired Ruby Walsh.

Mullins tweeted: "I'm happy to report that #KillultaghVic seems fine after his little speed wobble @LeopardstownRC."

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