Faugheen bids to show he's still a machine against seven in Irish Champion
Star two-mile hurdler Faugheen will face seven rivals when he bids to get his season back on track in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle on day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on Saturday.
The ten-year-old was pulled up in the back straight when last in action in the Ryanair Hurdle at the same track in December and is a general 4-1 second favourite behind Buveur D'Air to land the Champion Hurdle in March.
Rich Ricci's top hurdler faces stiff opposition, including British raider Defi Du Seuil, the mount of Richard Johnson, who is similarly on a retrieval mission following a below-par effort in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot in November.
On official ratings, Faugheen's stablemate Melon and Jessica Harrington's Supasundae, who is dropping in trip, are the main dangers to Willie Mullins's Champion Hurdle hero in 2015.
Samcro was not declared for the Irish Champion Hurdle or the Grade 1 2m6f Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle on Saturday, for which he was entered, although is expected to run in the Grade 1 Deloitte Hurdle on day two of the festival.
Identity Thief, Jezki, Mick Jazz and Bapaume complete the line up for the Irish Champion Hurdle, although that is just one of several mouthwatering races on day one at Leopardstown.
Stablemates Min and Yorkhill take one another on in the Grade 2 Coral Dublin Chase, which has also attracted Simply Ned and Special Tiara, while a field of five, including Footpad and Petit Mouchoir, contest the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase.
Potential Ballymore and Albert Bartlett contenders Fabulous Saga and Dortmund Park feature in the opening Grade 1 novice hurdle and Champion Bumper market principals Blackbow and Minella Encore are the star names declared for the concluding Grade 2 bumper.
Pat Keogh, chief executive of Leopardstown racecourse, said: “It’s an incredible opening day to the first Dublin Racing Festival and all the stars we hoped to see will be at Leopardstown on Saturday.
"Everything looks set fair and while a little rain is forecast for early on Saturday morning, the weekend’s weather is looking very favourable meaning perfect conditions for everyone.”
It’s simply a meeting not to be missed.