3.30pm Leopardstown – Petit Mouchoir to win at 9/4 (3.25) Betfair
2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen “the Machine” returns to action at Leopardstown on Sunday for their outstanding Irish Champion Hurdle card with the Willie Mullins trained nine-year-old trading at 4/6 across the board to win the Grade 1 feature race at 3.30pm.
It was exactly a year ago when we last saw him obliterating Arctic Fire to win this very race, with Nichols Canyon back in third. He is, without question, one of the most naturally gifted hurdlers of recent times but after a year off due to injury, it’s hard to know how vulnerable he may be to the will of an improving, younger horse.
Former stablemate Petit Mouchoir – now under the care of Henry De Bromhead – secured something of a graduation win last time out in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas, defeating Nichols Canyon in no uncertain terms in the process.
He was mightily unlucky to fall in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle when looking the most likely winner of the race, but he showed true class to bounce back here last time out. He has only just turned six years old so is very much a work in progress, but his jumping was absolutely electric last time out, particularly at the second last hurdle where he absolutely flew the obstacle like a horse possessed, and then quickening up in rather taking style under Bryan Cooper.
Faugheen’s form is superior to Petit Mouchoir, but the latter is young, progressing fast and perhaps most importantly, he is hard-fit on the back of three runs so far this season. Fitness could be the deciding factor here.
Faugheen can be expected to try and win this from the front so Petit Mouchoir can’t afford to give the defending Irish Champion hurdler too much rope. He does have bags of pace and if he is within a few lengths of Faugheen as they round the home turn, he should be able to get on terms and give this great horse a real battle first time out.
It is a big ask, no doubt about it. Sure Petit Mouchoir beat Nichols Canyon very well last time out, but Faugheen beat the same horse by half the length of the Leopardstown straight in this last year. Nonetheless, the betting value lies with the young pretender at 9/4 with Ladbrokes and he gets the nod for Sunday’s horse racing tip.