Redemption theme hits Leopardstown
Willie Mullins will be hoping some of his star names can bite back on day one of the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown.
The Closutton supremo suffered a series of Christmas setbacks when the attention was last focused on the Foxrock track and he is back now hoping to set the record straight.
Mullins trails Gordon Elliott by more than €600,000 in the Irish trainers' title race and needs a big two days at Leopardstown to ignite hopes of retaining his perch.
Top billing on Saturday goes to Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle (15:30) as he seeks to come back from being pulled up at Christmas.
He was in super form before and has been in terrific form since.Patrick Mullins
That was just a second career defeat for 'The Machine', rated an 1.90 chance to win this afternoon.
Stablemate Melon, alongside last season's outstanding British juvenile Defi Du Seuil are amongst those hoping to take advantage of a below-par Faugheen performance.
Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father, certainly is not giving up on the former Cheltenham Champion Hurdle hero.
"Faugheen steps back into the ring after being knocked to the canvas last time. He was in super form before and has been in terrific form since," he told the Irish Independent.
"Nothing showed up to explain the Christmas mystery, which is most strange. However, reports that the once great engine is rusted and beyond repair are highly exaggerated. Even Muhammad Ali got beaten in his heyday.
"I believe that today a pink phoenix with green spots will rise from the ashes and we will once again see that 'The Machine' is back in full working order."
Elsewhere, Yorkhill drops back to two-miles after failing to see out a staying chase at Christmas. He puts his Queen Mother Champion Chase credentials on the line against stablemate Min in the Grade Two Dublin Chase (13:45).
Min was first past the post at the track over Christmas but lost the race to the re-opposing Simply Ned in the stewards' room.
Footpad, a leading fancy for next month's Arkle at Cheltenham, puts his unbeaten record over fences on the line against Petit Mouchoir in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase (14:20) in what is a big day for the Mullins yard.
Faugheen is 7.00 to regain the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March while reigning champ Buveur D'air, in action in Sandown's Contenders Hurdle today, is 1.66 to win next month.
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