Samcro and Faugheen to go head to head in Grade One at Punchestown

Samcro has a question to answer after surprise defeat on his return to the fray at Down Royal

 Trainer Willie Mullins and  Faugheen: “He’s in great shape and it’s a track that he loves.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Trainer Willie Mullins and Faugheen: “He’s in great shape and it’s a track that he loves.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

All eyes will be on the weather and ground conditions at Punchestown this weekend, where the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle is set to be a cracker should all go to plan.

It may be a small field, but it is certainly not short on quality, with Samcro and Faugheen due to go head to head in the Grade One affair which attracted six runners at the final declaration stage.

Festival winner Samcro is being aimed at the Champion Hurdle back at Cheltenham rather than embarking on a novice chase campaign, but has a question to answer after surprisingly being beaten on his return to the fray at Down Royal.

Gordon Elliott expects him to leave that behind on Sunday, at least in fitness terms, although he has been at pains to stress suitable ease underfoot will be required for the much talked about six-year-old to take his chance.

Putting the ground to one side, Elliott said in assessing his prospects this week: “He’s going to have to improve on his Down Royal form, but I did think that the run there will have brought him forward, so we’ll see what happens on Sunday.

“This game is a great game, and is all about opinions. He is going to have to improve on last year’s form to win a Champion Hurdle, but we are not giving up on him yet.

“He just raced a little lethargic at Down Royal, but he came out of his race fine so he’ll be there for another day.

“Shane McCann rode him Wednesday morning and he was happy with him, so I am. It will be a very good race, but that’s the way it is in Ireland. In England you can duck and dive, but we take each other on every day, and that is why we have the best racing in the world.”

Mixed fortunes

Faugheen has had mixed fortunes in the race, having to give best to ill-fated stablemate Nichols Canyon in 2015, but winning with ease 12 months ago.

Willie Mullins’ former two-mile king ended the campaign racing over three miles at Punchestown in April, where he looked something like his brilliant self of old.

The Closutton, Co Carlow, trainer told At The Races: “He’s in great shape and it’s a track that he loves. I was wondering if I would run him in the Hatton’s Grace over two and a half, but he’s in good shape and he loves Punchestown, and that means a lot when a horse likes a place. I’ve no concerns dropping him back in trip – he’s working well.”

Adding further lustre to proceedings is the Jessica Harrington-trained Supasundae, who accounted for Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle last season and picked up the equivalent race at the Punchestown Festival, where Samcro fell.

His rider Robbie Power said: “He’s in very good form. He ran twice last year over two miles and won two Grade Ones. He won the Irish Champion Hurdle and then won the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

“He was second in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and is a very good horse. We’ll just have to have a think this season as to what route we go – Champion Hurdle or Stayers. He’s very laid back, so much so he probably takes a run or so before he’s fully fit, and he probably will this season.”

The field is completed by the Elliott-trained Tombstone and the Mullins’ pair of Sharjah and Wicklow Brave.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.