Punchestown Festival preview: Irish Champion Hurdle (17.30)

Faugheen is long odds-on to maintain his unbeaten record in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Punchestown today (17.30), and is impossible to oppose in a disappointing renewal of the Grade 1 contest.

Just four go to post for the feature race on an eight-race card, and stable companion Arctic Fire is the only conceivable danger as the other two contenders are out of their depth and have around two stone to find on official ratings.

Faugheen is trained by Willie Mullins, and comes into the contest having notched an eighth straight win under rules when landing the Champion Hurdle at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.

The gelding made all, and after making a mistake at the second last quickened clear to beat Arctic Fire by 1 1/2 lengths.

Faugheen only had to be kept up to his work on the run in to score with far more in hand than the winning margin suggests, and it is impossible to find any reason why the runner-up should reverse the placings.

The seven-year-old oozes class, and has a high cruising speed and potent turn of foot which sets him apart from his rivals.

Jockey Ruby Walsh will be happy to keep things simple and bounce Faugheen out in front, and barring accidents it should be a case of how far the son of Germany wins with his head in his chest.

Arctic Fire is improving with every run and was travelling strongly and set to take the scalp of 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki when coming to grief at the last in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle earlier in the month.

Prior to chasing home Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle, the six-year-old has posted two excellent to finish in the frame behind Hurricane Fly in Grade 1 contests at Leopardstown and has built up a solid profile.

However, on all known form, Arctic Fire is held by Faugheen and will have to settle for second place behind his superstar stablemate.

The field is made up by the David Pipe trained Dell’ Arca and Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll, but they are rated 31lb and 27lb respectively below Faugheen.

That strongly suggest they should not be a factor, but credit to connections for letting them take their chance and pick up some valuable prize money.