Harry Kane broke the Premier League record for number of goals in a calendar year on Boxing Day, and, on Friday, Faugheen has the chance to confirm his standing as the sharpest shooter in racing. Much like Kane, Faugheen is ruthlessly efficient in front of goal, consistently converting with seemingly the minimum of effort and, with 13 wins from 14 starts under Rules, he boasts a strike rate that any striker would be proud of. He appears to face the equivalent of a tap-in when lining up for the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle (14:30) at Leopardstown, too, having appeared to retain all of his old ability after 22 months off when winning the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last time.
He admittedly faced rivals outside of the very top bracket that day, and does so again here, with his four rivals unlikely to rediscover their goal-scoring touch until dropping to the Championship. Stablemate Cilaos Emery is the one who could still have more to offer at this level, his career just six starts old, after all. He produced a career best when fourth on his reappearance in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, getting to within 11 lengths of Apple’s Jade, and should improve again dropping back to the same trip as when winning a Grade 1 novice at Punchestown in April.
The remaining trio all represent the Gordon Elliott yard that, like Manchester City, has threatened to sweep all before it this season. Campeador, Mick Jazz and The Game Changer all fit the bill of squad player rather than first-team regular, however.
AC got the better of Inter in the quarter-final of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, a clash that no longer seems to carry the same significance it once did. Indeed, both Milans have struggled to recapture former glories in recent years, but the stallion of the same name has fared much better, former Champion Hurdler Jezki and last season’s Grand National winner One For Arthur just two of his star performers.
Monalee is odds-on to improve his sire’s fine record in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase (13:55), having made a winning debut over the larger obstacles at Punchestown last month. That form is working out well and he looks sure to improve. Rathvinden and Jury Duty have both acquitted themselves well at Graded level already and head the list of dangers.
Like Daniel Sturridge, Ruby Walsh is no stranger to injury troubles, and the horse who delivered a two-footed challenge to break his leg at Punchestown last month is back in action elsewhere on the card. Let’s Dance won the Grade 3 Mares’ Hurdle (13:20) 12 months ago and appears to hold sound claims in her follow-up bid. Meanwhile, Someday’s silks are perhaps the biggest eyesore in sport since Manchester United’s away kit for the 1991/92 season.
Avert your eyes accordingly for the Maiden Hurdle (12:50), a race in which Jessica Harrington’s charge faces off against exciting hurdler debutant Ballyward.
12.50pm – Ballyward
1.20pm – Let’s Dance
1.55pm – Monalee
2.30pm – Faugheen