Mullins ace Faugheen looking for redemption

Faugheen ridden by Ruby Walsh
Faugheen ridden by Ruby Walsh
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Faugheen spearheads nine possible runners in the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

The reigning champion hurdler, trained by Willie Mullins, lost his unbeaten record in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November but is likely to be a short price to gain redemption.

Faugheen could be joined in the line-up by stablemates Arctic Fire and Nichols Canyon, the surprise winner of the Morgiana.

Sam Twiston-Davies would have a big decision to make if Old Guard (Paul Nicholls) and The New One (Nigel Twiston-Davies) are both declared for the race.

Nicholls said the former’s participation is subject to a “strong piece of work” in the build-up to the race, but would not stop in the jockey’s way if he chooses to ride The New One, who is trained by his father.

“It’s a decision Sam has to make,” said Nicholls.

“We’ll weigh up everything, he’ll have a chat with his dad and see what he (Sam Twiston-Davies) wants to do.”

Dell’ Arca, Melodic Rendezvous and the Nicky Henderson-trained duo of Hargam and Sign Of A Victory finish off the list of possible runners.

Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre then look set to go head-to-head in the williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on Sunday.

The former two-mile champions were among just five entries revealed for the Grade Two event after it was reopened at the initial stage.

Both horses have gone some way to recapturing past glories, with the Gary Moore-trained Sire De Grugy winning the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and Nicky Henderson’s Sprinter Sacre demolishing his rivals in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham. Tingle Creek third Vibrato Valtat is in line to reoppose for Paul Nicholls, as is the fourth home, Somersby (Mick Channon).

Tom George’s Sir Valentino recently completed a hat-trick of handicaps wins over hurdles and fences and is poised to take a significant jump in class.

Meanwhile, there are 14 top-class chasers remaining in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on Monday.

Quite how many will line up, though, is still unclear as the likes of Don Cossack, Vautour and Valseur Lido who are all engaged in Ireland are expected to head to Kempton for the William Hill King George VI Chase.

Don Cossack and Valseur Lido are owned by Gigginstown House Stud who are still able to call upon last year’s winner Road To Riches, trained by Noel Meade, and Sir Des Champs.

Sir Des Champs is trained by Willie Mullins, as is Vautour, and he has also left in Djakadam, On His Own and Don Poli.

Carlingford Lough could return to fences, with Foxrock, First Lieutenant, Grand Jesture, Home Farm and Roi Du Mee all in the mix.

Vroum Vroum Mag remains unbeaten in Ireland after barely breaking out of a canter to win yesterday’s Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Hurdle at Clonmel yesterday.

The race was part of a card which had to be rearranged twice, and the ground was so testing the two chases scheduled had to be abandoned.

Mud-loving Vroum Vroum Mag ploughed through it with glee, though, and Ruby Walsh never moved a muscle on the six-year-old until asking for a big leap at the last.

Sent off 1-16, she was having her first start over hurdles for Willie Mullins having won six out of six over fences.

Walsh was happy to take a lead for the first mile and a half before easing to the front and cruising to a three-length win over Mrs Mac Veale.

“There is a mares’ race at Huntingdon, but it may come too soon,” said Mullins.

“There is a big possibility that she could go for the mares’ hurdle at Cheltenham if for any reason Annie Power doesn’t make it. On her chase runs she looks good and it’s in the back of our minds the whole time.

“This was a good opportunity that we had to take and it gives options staying over hurdles. Otherwise we would have to take on Grade One horses over fences. These are easier options for the time being.”

Trainer Luca Cumani. PIC: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

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