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Fusil Raffles finally gets his chance to shine after missing big festivals

Fusil Raffles made a tremendous impression on his British debut
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4.25 Punchestown
AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (Grade 1) | 2m | 4yo | RTE2/RTV

When Fusil Raffles ran away with the Adonis Hurdle in late February it seemed entirely possible Nicky Henderson had a potential Triumph Hurdle winner in his squad. He did, but it was not Fusil Raffles.

Two days after Fusil Raffles dazzled at Kempton, the master of Seven Barrows sent hurdling newcomer Pentland Hills to Plumpton, where he won before following up in the Triumph – and then again in Aintree's Anniversary Hurdle.

Watch Fusil Raffles win easily at Kempton

Fusil Raffles missed both those races, but he will be reunited with Daryl Jacob at Punchestown and is set the mission of winning the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle – the most important race of its kind in Ireland – for his owner-breeders Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

Fusil Raffles jumps the final flight of the Adonis Hurdle under Daryl Jacob

Henderson said: "He came over in the autumn and then had a few little issues around Christmas time. That meant we had to go straight into the Adonis, which was throwing him in at the deep end.

"I came off the stands at Kempton thinking I had found myself a Triumph Hurdle horse – and at that point we hadn't even run Pentland Hills.

"As soon as we walked into the unsaddling enclosure we found he had stripped one of his hind legs. He had completely taken off a flap of skin and I'm afraid it was a foul mess. That was the end of Cheltenham and we didn't have him back for Aintree.

"He's a lovely-looking horse and he did look very good at Kempton, although he hadn't been screaming out at us in the mornings, so the way he did it in the Adonis slightly surprised me.

"This time it clearly wouldn't be such a surprise and I'm obviously hopeful. He has actually been working very nicely in the build-up to this race."

Five horses have been declared against Fusil Raffles, including the Willie Mullins-trained Fairyhouse Grade 2 winner French Made and Joseph O'Brien's Fakir D'Oudairies, who got within a neck of Pentland Hills at Aintree after finishing fourth in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

His trainer Joseph O'Brien said: "He has been in good shape since Aintree but we would love to see an extra drop of rain.

"He's a good horse but Nicky's horse has a big reputation and has done nothing wrong. It won't be an easy task for our horse but he's going nicely at home."

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This time it clearly wouldn't be such a surprise and I'm obviously hopeful
E.W. Terms