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Champion Hurdle remains on agenda for Faugheen

Faugheen (right) and Supasundae lock horns in the Irish Champion Hurdle
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The Unibet Champion Hurdle remains the Cheltenham target for Faugheen rather than the Stayers' Hurdle despite his defeat by Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday.

Speaking at Leopardstown on Sunday, Willie Mullins, trainer of the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner, said: "Faugheen was a little stiff this morning but that was understandable.

"We'll see how things go with him over the next few weeks but I imagine he'll head for the Champion Hurdle.

"Obviously he needs to improve if he is to get back to anywhere near his best but, while he was a bit disappointing yesterday, it was a step forward from his poor performance in the Ryanair Hurdle at Christmas."

Faugheen, a general 6-1 chance for the Champion Hurdle, is also entered for the Stayers' Hurdle at the festival, but Mullins virtually ruled out the ten-year-old taking up that option. "I doubt very much that the Stayers' will be on his agenda," Mullins said.

The trainer reported Min, impressive winner of the Coral Dublin Chase on Saturday, to be "fine" following the race and confirmed the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase rather than the Ryanair Chase as his Cheltenham target.

However, plans are unclear for Yorkhill, who finished a remote sixth behind Min.

Mullins said: "Yorkhill was quite stiff this morning after hitting a few fences and we've no plans for him yet. He had missed about a week after his run over three miles at Christmas and had to have a chip removed from a knee."

Yorkhill: pulled out stiff following another very disappointing showing at Leopardstown

One enhancing his Cheltenham claims on Saturday was John Constable who trainer Evan Williams is relishing running on spring ground after confirming Saturday's Betfred Contenders Hurdle runner-up for next month's Champion Hurdle.

The trainer described himself as "over the moon" with the seven-year-old's performance in finishing less than two lengths behind Champion Hurdle favourite Buveur D'Air on unsuitable ground at Sandown.

"I was thinking it was going to be a tough assignment for picking up a few quid for second but the horse surprised me with how comfortable he found the situation," said the trainer.

"It was proper soft there and he made a few little mistakes and he struggled going down to the start let alone galloping and jumping on it."

Buveur D'Air, who lead from start to finish in a slowly run race, was shaken up by Barry Geraghty to maintain his advantage close home as John Constable threatened to make a race of it.

The runner-up showed his liking for better ground when winning the Swinton Hurdle and Summer Hurdle last year and was far from disgraced when beaten just over four lengths when sixth of seven behind My Tent Or Yours in the International Hurdle on his previous start.

"When the sunshine comes out and the ground is decent he's a different horse and I'm quite looking forward to running him in the spring," said Williams.

John Constable (left) ran a fine race against Buveur D'Air on Saturday

"He'll go for the Champion Hurdle. There's huge gap between handicapping and Champion Hurdles and we're under no illusions about the challenge we face, but I've seen enough from him on his last two runs."

Following a weekend when a number of Champion Hurdle candidates fluffed their lines, Buveur D'Air was on Sunday no bigger than 4-6 with the sponsors, while John Constable's odds range between 40-1 and 66-1. 

Contenders Hurdle replay, result and analysis


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He needs to improve if he is to get back to anywhere near his best but it was a step forward from his poor performance in the Ryanair Hurdle
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