Faugheen odds-on to sustain momentum for Mullins
After Thousand Stars victory in Paris, unbeaten Faugheen goes to post in Morgiana
Faugheen is already a 1-8 favourite with Paddy Power to make a winning start to the new season in the €85,000 Grade One Stan James Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
The veteran Thousand Stars secured Willie Mullins a first Grade One of the new winter campaign in Paris on Saturday, and it is the champion trainer’s brightest star, Faugheen, who will be short odds to maintain that top-flight momentum at Punchestown this Sunday.
Unbeaten in 10 starts to date, Faugheen is already a 1-8 favourite with Paddy Power to make a successful start to the new season in the €85,000 Stan James Morgiana Hurdle.
Faugheen was 1-6 when concluding last season with a brilliant defeat of Arctic Fire at the Punchestown festival – his fifth Grade One success – but with just a dozen entries left in the Morgiana ahead of Tuesday’s forfeit stage, he could start at his shortest ever SP this weekend.
The shortest the Rich Ricci-owned star has been during his faultless career to date was when winning at 1-9 in a novice hurdle at Navan in December of 2013.
Hurricane Fly memorably broke the world record for Grade One victories in last year’s Morgiana, which was the first top-flight victory of a 2014-2015 campaign that saw Mullins secure a remarkable 30 Grade One successes overall.
Thousand Stars, a Morgiana winner himself in 2011, got his trainer off to an earlier start this term with a dramatic victory in Saturday’s Grand Prix d’Automne at Auteuil. Ruby Walsh powered the gallant grey to a nose victory over the British-trained Aubusson.
“He loves it around here and from the time he was second here in June this has been his target,” Walsh reported afterwards. “It’s a wonderful training performance and a pleasure to have ridden him.”
Mullins’s big-race focus could also take in the first major handicap prize of the British jumps season too, with Devil’s Bride rated a 16-1 shot by the sponsor for this Saturday’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, a race in which the Irish trainer has four entries.
Enda Bolger has three hopefuls in contention to run in Friday’s Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham: Colour Squadron, Quantitativeeasing and Josie’s Order.
Martin Keighley has confirmed both Any Currency and Champion Court will take part in the cross-country event, which is one of the highlights of Cheltenham’s November fixture.
The veteran Any Currency is a winner over the banks and has twice been runner-up over the course at the March festival. Champion Court, however, will be a newcomer to the discipline.
“They both schooled over the cross-country fences at Cheltenham on Thursday. Champion Court took to it amazingly well and jumped like a stag. We popped him over a few of the tricky ones, including the cheese-wedges and white rails and I was delighted. He has always been a good jumper and we want to try something different because he has shot up the handicap,” locally based Keighley said.
“We know Any Currency stays the trip well and that is the big question mark with Champion Court. The course is very twisty and turny but they don’t go very quick or get racing until late on so he might be fine,” he added.