Posted: 16th Dec 2015
Faugheen: bids to defend Christmas Hurdle crown at KemptonPICTURE: Getty Images
A REASON for Faugheen's surprise defeat at Punchestown last months has yet to surface, although Willie Mullins is confident his star two-mile hurdler will return to the peak of his form when attempting to defend his crown in the Grade 1 williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle.
The Irish champion trainer said at a media morning on Wednesday that he is "still not sure what happened" on Faugheen's return to action, when he tasted defeat at the hands of stablemate Nichols Canyon for the first time in the Grade 1 StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle.
"I don't think Ruby was worried about Nichols Canyon after the piece of work they did together at the Curragh," said Mullins. "Nichols was always going to be galloping and it was pointless them having a head-to-head fight over the first mile in the Morgiana.
"It ended up that the two of them probably cooked their own goose. Ruby [Walsh] probably thought he would get a lead from Nichols Canyon and we never dreamt that Faugheen would be flat. He appeared fine on the day but perhaps he was flat after the piece or work. He hung because he was tired."
The Susannah Ricci-owned hurdler is 1-2 favourite with race sponsors to return to winning ways at Kempton on December 26, with 2013 one-two My Tent Or Yours and The New One among the possible dangers.
Discussing potential tactics for Kempton, Ireland's champion trainer added: "I don't know whether he will make the running at Kempton or not but I'd imagine we won't be hanging about.
"I'll leave that to Ruby. You don't know what will happen at the start. I don't ever like to give my jockeys instructions. I have been very happy with him since the Morgiana."
No track concerns for Vautour
Mullins also revealed he has no worries over Vautour's jumping before his tilt at the William Hill King George VI Chase on the same Kempton card.
Mullins said: "I'm not worried about him going left-handed. He was just all lonely out in front at Ascot - it's not something that worries me at all. I won't even discuss it with Ruby. I'm looking forward to the race."
Vautour is a 3-1 second favourite with the big-race sponsors behind 9-4 favourite Don Cossack in the King George betting.
Do not miss the latest new on Willie Mullins's festive runners in Thursday's edition - and read his exclusive thoughts every Saturday in the Racing Post
Return to news listings.