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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018

Back with a bang! Faugheen makes a brilliant return at Punchestown

The Willie Mullins’ star was a convincing winner of the Morgiana Hurdle this afternoon.

Jockey Paul Townend celebrates with Faugheen.
Jockey Paul Townend celebrates with Faugheen.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ALMOST TWO YEARS since his last race, Faugheen, the 2015 Champion Hurdle hero, enjoyed an impressive return with victory in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown this afternoon.

The 4-9 favourite, in his first race since winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2016, stormed clear to win the Grade One contest in convincing fashion, with Willie Mullins’ star now the market leader for the two-mile championship at Cheltenham in March.

With Paul Townend deputising for the injured Ruby Walsh, Faugheen came home ahead of Jezki in second.

“It was very good. The horse did all the talking today. I’ve been talking up to now and you’ve all seen what I was saying,” Mullins said afterwards.

“I don’t know what I want to do now, I’m just happy to get today over with. We’ll go home and hopefully he’ll be all right in the morning.

“Paul was very happy with him. He said he moved up through the gears, he took a big jump at the last one down the back. He was all wrong, stood back, let fly and landed with his hind legs on top of it but it didn’t take a thing out of him.

“He did it well and he didn’t win by just hanging on. He was having his first run of the year against three horses that are super-fit from running. He just jumped out and took the race from them.

“The race was set up for anyone of those, fit from summer racing. Discussing it with Ruby and Paul beforehand both of them felt the horse was good enough to do that and if he got tired or needed the race, so be it.

“We were going to go out and bring the race to them. We were hoping we had the class and he showed today he did.

“He was ready just after Punchestown so it’s nice to get out on the track and let everyone see that we weren’t talking absolute and utter rubbish. You get the feeling sometimes that people don’t believe and that you are just saying things.”

Meanwhile, Woodland Opera — with Robbie Power on board — upset the odds in the Novice Chase at Punchestown as Jessica Harrington’s outsider pipped Tombstone to claim the Grade Two title.

And the Liam and Valerie Brennan Memorial Florida Pearl Novice Chase was won by Jury Duty as Power landed a quickfire double aboard Gordon Elliott’s six-year-old. Shattered Love was second.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

Ruby Walsh does not require surgery after breaking his leg in a fall

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Ryan Bailey

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