Faugheen return lights up Sunday
Selection in every race at Leopardstown
A competitive card at Leopardstown tops the Sunday racing bill and there looks to be plenty of value around for the eagle-eyed punter. We aim to help pick them out with our best bets, as well as a selection in every leg.
Race of the day goes in the form of the Grade One Irish Champion Hurdle, due at 3.30pm. Five runners are expected to contest, and it reads like a who’s who of the sport. Trainer Willie Mullins holds a strong hand in the form of three runners, most notably last year’s champion Faugheen.
The champ is back
Mullins and Walsh share a spectacular record in this race, teaming up to win each of the last five renewals, so it really doesn’t pay to oppose them in this sphere. The bulk of that success can be accredited to Hurricane Fly, who won the prize five times in-a-row. Faugheen took over 12-months ago.
The nine-year-old, showing a CV of 12 wins and a second from 13 starts, went off as hot-favourite that day, and more than justified his tag, trotting home unchallenged, with runner-up Arctic Fire coming 15-lengths behind.
The one slight question mark hanging over the star this year however is his time off track, as he returns to action following a year lay-off. Winning this race last time was impressive, but he has not been in competitive action since, and that rates as a real worry for connections who consider it a big ask to retain his crown.
Punters will be hugely interested to see how he returns from injury, and some may want to sit the race out as mere spectators, rather than get involved in him as favourite, but I have no such worry. We saw last time that, even a percentage of his best would be good enough, and I don’t think they would have brought him back for this if his team weren’t quietly confident.
At present, he’s very well-regarded in the antepost betting for the Cheltenham Festival in the Champion Hurdle, and is given an outside chance of winning the Stayers Hurdle. It remains to be seen which route he’ll take, but we’ll learn a lot from Sunday.
Stick with oor Willie
2.30pm Arkle Novice Chase, a Grade One contest over two-miles one-furlong, is the obvious chief support, where Mullins is again man of the moment, having saddled last year’s winner Douvan.
He has two of the four this year, and it’s a straight shoot-out between himself and fellow trainer Henry de Bromhead, with the latter having the other pair. Barry Geraghty sits on Bleu Et Rouge, and that’s the one for us.
Having won half of his six career starts, the six-year-old was last seen winning around here shortly after Christmas in a Beginners Chase. He battered de Bromhead’s Gangster into submission that day, and although his jumping cast up more questions than answers, it was a gutsy performance to compensate and he’ll refuse to lie down again here.
That experience over fences at this venue will stand him in good stead and Bleu Et Rouge goes as my next best on the day. Antepost backers will find him an outsider in the RSA Chase at present, but his odds will be cut if he can convince here.
1.30 – Prince Charmin
2.00 – Let’s Dance
2.30 – Bleu Et Rouge (NB)
3.00 – King’s Wharf
3.30 – Faugheen (NAP)
4.00 – Bearly Legal
4.30 – Debuchet