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Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Will 'The Machine' still be in perfect working order?

Walsh on Faugheen, who returns to action in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown
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2.15 Punchestown
Unibet Morgiana Hurdle (Grade 1) | 2m40yds | ATR

It has been a while, 665 days to be precise, since Faugheen put out Arctic Fire's flame in the Irish Champion Hurdle. He is now touching ten so what we all want to know is whether 'The Machine' is still in perfect working order? 

We have certainly missed him. The 2m hurdling division has chopped and changed over the last two years and it is about time some order was restored. Victory for Faugheen today might do just that. 

Ruby Walsh won't be riding after suffering a broken leg at Punchestown on Saturday, but before sustaining that injury he said: "He seems very well and is as fit as we can have him for his first run. He has a lot of work under his belt but there’s no substitute for a race.

"We don’t know for certain if he retains all his ability but we’re very happy with what we’re seeing at home, and would like to think he has. We will find out here." 

Can Campeador make the breakthrough?

We are always looking for the next big thing. The future star. Something with serious potential. Could that be Campeador? 

He could have won the Fred Winter as a juvenile hurdler had he not fallen at the last and he would have won a hot handicap hurdle at Fairyhouse last April but for doing likewise. His winning return at this venue last month oozed class so today is a massive one in his education. 

Gordon Elliott is certainly looking forward to seeing where he stands with the exciting five-year-old.

Elliott said: "This will tell us where we stand with Campeador and whether he's up to this level or not. It goes without saying that it's a big step up in class for him but we've always thought a lot of him at home and he seems to be in very good form."

Is Jezki as good as he was?

We're all dying to know whether Faugheen is still as good as he once was, but we're also keen to find out if Jezki can still cut the mustard on the big stage. 

We presumed the good days were all behind him after he trailed in last of five in a conditions hurdle at Fairyhouse in April, but he surprised everyone with a stylish triumph at Tipperary last month in the Grade 3 Istabraq Hurdle. 

"We're taking it one step at a time with Jezki. I got huge pleasure out of seeing him winning at Tipperary and it was great to see him back doing what he does best," said trainer Jessica Harrington.

"This is a big day for him and it will tell us where we stand and whether we need to step him back up in trip. We have kept him fresh at home since Tipperary," she added. 

Will Fox be as cute in higher grade? 

Swamp Fox came within a whisker of winning Ireland's richest handicap hurdle and now trainer Joe Murphy has decided to let him have a crack at the big boys. 

Only a late surge from Tigris River deprived Swamp Fox of success in the Guinness Galway Hurdle and he has since finished a creditable sixth in the Cesarewitch before winning the November Handicap at Naas. Fitness certainly won't be an issue.

"He's rated 155 so we don't really have anywhere else to go with him unless we carry top weight in a handicap. This will tell us a lot about him. He is very consistent and has kept on improving. We will let him take his chance and then decide what to do afterwards, be it stay in Grade 1s or return to handicaps," said Murphy. 

Is Vroum a Champion contender? 

Everyone seems to have their own opinion about what race Vroum Vroum Mag should be aimed at next March, but this might tell us whether she is a genuine Champion Hurdle contender. 

She could not repel Apple's Jade in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last season and finished the campaign with a disappointing seventh in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, but we all know she is capable of huge performances so write her off at your peril.

He seems very well, and is as fit as we can have him for his first run. He has a lot of work under his belt, but there’s no substitute for a race
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