Willie Mullins keeps Faugheen’s options open
Trainer raises possibility of Cheltenham favourite taking in Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park
Trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Bryan Cooper celebrate winning the Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Steeplechase with Don Cossack in Thurles last month. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Willie Mullins has raised the possibility of Champion Hurdle favourite Faugheen taking in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday week.
The seven-year-old is a red-hot favourite for the two-mile championship on the opening day of next month’s Cheltenham Festival after taking his unbeaten record over timber to seven in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on St Stephen’s Day.
Mullins is thrilled with how his charge is performing on the gallops ahead of his trip to Prestbury Park in a little under five weeks and will discuss with stable jockey Ruby Walsh whether to give him more match practice ahead of the big day.
Faugheen is set to be joined in the Champion Hurdle line-up by his incredible stable companion Hurricane Fly, who clinched his fifth victory in last month’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Now an 11-year-old, the odds appear to be stacked against the 22-time Grade One winner as he chases a third Champion Hurdle victory as to do so he will have to become the first horse in history to regain the crown twice.
Mullins said: “If he was a year younger, or maybe two or three years, he’d be favourite, wouldn’t he?
“He’s done everything he’s been asked, he’s beaten the reigning Champion Hurdler (Jezki). His age is the only thing against him, and possibly people feel Cheltenham is not his track, yet he’s won twice there.”
Gordon Elliott reports Don Cossack to be “bouncing” ahead of his bid to cap a fantastic season in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month. The Co Meath-based trainer has never made any secret of the regard in which he holds the eight-year-old and he has come of age this term, winning each of his four starts including the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase in December.
Meanwhile, Dynaste will not defend his crown in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month after being ruled out for the season.