Faugh­een show­down time at Punchestown

The Racing Paper - - News - By Wil­lis Jones

ALL eyes will be on the weather and ground con­di­tions at Punchestown this week­end, where the Uni­bet Mor­giana Hur­dle is set to be a cracker, should all go to plan.

It may be a small field, but it is cer­tainly not short on qual­ity, with Sam­cro and Faugh­een due to go head to head in the Grade One af­fair, which at­tracted six run­ners at the fi­nal dec­la­ra­tion stage.

Fes­ti­val win­ner Sam­cro is be­ing aimed at the Cham­pion Hur­dle back at Chel­tenham rather than em­bark­ing on a novice chase cam­paign, but has a ques­tion to an­swer af­ter sur­pris­ingly be­ing beaten on his re­turn to the fray at Down Royal.

Gor­don El­liott ex­pects him to leave that be­hind on Sun­day, at least in fit­ness terms, al­though he has been at pains to stress suit­able ease un­der­foot will be re­quired for the muchtalked-about six-year-old to take his chance.

Putting the ground to one side, El­liott said in as­sess­ing his prospects this week: “He’s go­ing to have to im­prove on his Down Royal form, but I did think the run there will have brought him for­ward.

“He is go­ing to have to im­prove on last year’s form to win a Cham­pion Hur­dle, but we are not giv­ing up on him yet.

“He just raced a lit­tle lethar­gic at Down Royal, but he came out of his race fine. Shane McCann rode him Wed­nes­day morn­ing and he was happy with him, so I am.

“It will be a very good race, but that’s the way it is in Ire­land. In Eng­land you can duck and dive, but we take each other on ev­ery day and that is why we have the best rac­ing in the world.”

Faugh­een has had mixed for­tunes in the race, hav­ing to give best to ill-fated sta­ble­mate Ni­chols Canyon in 2015, but win­ning with ease 12 months ago.

Wil­lie Mullins’ for­mer two-mile king ended the cam­paign rac­ing over three miles at Punchestown in April, where he looked some­thing like his bril­liant self of old.

The Clo­sut­ton trainer said: “He’s in great shape and it’s a track he loves. I’ve no con­cerns drop­ping him back in trip.”

Adding fur­ther lus­tre to pro­ceed­ings is the Jes­sica Har­ring­ton-trained Su­pa­sun­dae, who ac­counted for Faugh­een in the Ir­ish Cham­pion Hur­dle last sea­son and picked up the equiv­a­lent race at the Punchestown Fes­ti­val, where Sam­cro fell.

His rider Rob­bie Power said: “He’s in very good form. We’ll just have to have a think this sea­son as to what route we go – Cham­pion Hur­dle or Stay­ers’.

“He’s very laid back, so much so he prob­a­bly takes a run or so be­fore he’s fully fit, and he prob­a­bly will this sea­son.”

The field is com­pleted by the El­liott-trained Tomb­stone and Mullins’ pair of Shar­jah and Wick­low Brave.

Mixed for­tunes: Faugh­een

Sam­cro hope: Gor­don El­liott

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