Faugheen looks set for Irish Champion Hurdle despite drift

Faugheen is the star name among nine horses confirmed for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday.

The Willie Mullins-trained 10-year-old put up what was arguably a career-best performance when slamming stablemate Arctic Fire by 15 lengths in the 2016 renewal of the prestigious contest but was then sidelined by injury for the best part of two years.

He appeared to have lost none of his ability when making a scintillating reappearance in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November but will be on a recovery mission if lining up this weekend, after being pulled up in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over the festive period.

Mullins has also left in Melon, who was last seen finishing third in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December, as well as Bapaume, who occupied the same position in the Hatton’s Grace at Fairyhouse on his latest appearance.

The Gordon Elliott-trained Mick Jazz was a shock winner of the Ryanair Hurdle following Faugheen’s flop. He is set to renew rivalries, while Elliott can also still call on brilliant novice Samcro.

British hopes rest with Philip Hobbs’ Defi Du Seuil. Like Faugheen, last year’s Triumph Hurdle hero has something to prove following a disappointing return at Ascot.

Jessica Harrington’s pair of Jezki and Supasundae and Identity Thief from Henry de Bromhead’s yard complete the potential line-up.

The Foxrock venue will play host to a top-class two-day fixture featuring seven Grade Ones, including the Champion Hurdle on the Saturday and the Unibet Gold Cup on Sunday.

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