Faugheen set for eagerly-awaited return at Punchestown

Willie Mullins’ star set set for first appearance in 22 months in Morgiana Hurdle

Faugheen is on course to make his first start in 22 months at Punchestown on Sunday when the Willie Mullins-trained star will try to settle a score in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle.

Two years ago the first Grade One hurdle of the season was the scene for Faugheen's sole defeat in 13 career starts when he came up half a length short of his stable companion Nichols Canyon at odds of 1-6.

The then reigning champion hurdler bounced back from that shock defeat to win twice afterwards, including with his highest rated ever performance in the 2016 Irish Champion Hurdle.

Injury has kept Faugheen on the sidelines since, including when ruled out of defending his Irish Champion Hurdle title last January just days before the race because of lameness.

Despite his lengthy absence Faugheen is 4-7 with Powers to get some Morgiana revenge at the weekend as Mullins targets a remarkable seventh success in a row in the €85,000 highlight.

The champion jumps trainer has nine of the 15 entries left in the race ahead of Tuesday’s forfeit stage including the stayers champion Nichols Canyon who doubled up in the Morgiana a year ago.

All eyes however will be on Faugheen who topped even his legendary stable companion Hurricane Fly on official ratings on his last start.

“He’s in good order and looks very good at home. We think he’s right. The only reason he hasn’t run is that he wasn’t ready for Punchestown (last Spring) and there was nothing there for him after that. But he has been ready to run for a while,” Mullins said on Sunday.

“I’ve been away in Australia so we will work them during the week before deciding. But I will imagine we will run one or two others,” he added.

Among the other Morgiana entries is Yorkhill but Mullins said no decision as to whether that brilliant but quirky star will be campaigned over hurdles or fences this season.

He also couldn’t disclose when Douvan will make a return from the stress fracture in his pelvis which the horse picked up at Cheltenham in March.

Owner Rich Ricci revealed on Sunday the Mullins team had never been entirely happy with Douvan last season.

“Something was clearly bothering Douvan for most of last year and he wasn’t quite himself,” Ricci said in a TV interview.

“No one was entirely with him the whole time despite him putting in some pretty good performances. Of course it came to light at Cheltenham that he just wasn’t right. It was his hip. But he seems to be back in his pomp,” he added.