Faugheen impresses at Punchestown

Faugheen ridden by Paul Townend clears the last fence on his way to winning

Faugheen made an impressive return to action in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

The 2015 Champion Hurdle hero could not have been more convincing in the Grade One contest, as he made his eagerly-awaited comeback after 665 days on the sidelines.

Paul Townend, deputising on Willie Mullins' star for the injured Ruby Walsh, let Faugheen bowl along in front and once he asked him to go and put the race to bed, the 4-9 favourite fairly sprinted clear.

Jezki, another former Champion Hurdle victor, was a distant second. Campeador fell at the last when well out of contention.

Faugheen was cut to 5-2 favourite from 5-1 for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March by Paddy Power, with Betfair 11-4 from 5-1.

Townend said: "He was deadly, unbelievable – he looks as good as ever.

"I wanted to keep it simple, I thought I was on the best horse and the best way to get him beat was to complicate it. It worked out – he's a very, very good horse. He's the real deal."

Woodland Opera ridden by Robert Power clears the last fence on his way to winning

Woodland Opera floored hot favourite Tombstone to claim Grade Two honours in the Ryans Cleaning Craddockstown Novice Chase at Punchestown.

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Jessica Harrington's 11-2 outsider of four shadowed the pace-setting Calino d'Airy for most of the two-mile journey, before pressing him hard before the third-last fence.

Tombstone came with a strong challenge, but the 10-11 market leader was half a length behind the Robbie Power-ridden winner at the line.

"It's great as there are a lot of the Coopers (owners) here today," said Harrington. "I probably got his trip right for the winter ground. I don't think he gets any further than two miles on heavy ground.

"He does go on it, but I kept running him over two and a half and he doesn't get it. Over the winter he'll stick to any two-mile handicaps or whatever. We'll probably find something for him over Christmas.

"It was lovely to be able to get into this race, because he's rated 150 or something rather scary like that.
"It's great to get him back to winning ways and I think the trainer probably made a bit of a nonsense by running him over too far on soft ground."

Jury Duty ridden by Robert Power on his way to winning

Power completed a quickfire big-race double on Jury Duty (6-1) in the Liam & Valerie Brennan Memorial Florida Pearl Novice Chase.

He produced Gordon Elliott's six-year-old to head stable companion Shattered Love at the final fence and go on to score by three-quarters of a length.

Presenting Percy, the even-money favourite, was 12 lengths away in third after making a couple of errors at crucial stages of the race.

"That was a bit special as Ciaran (Collins), one of the boys that owns the horse, is very sick in hospital," said Elliott. "Hopefully he was able to listen to the race and it'll give him a bit of a lift.

"He went to school with Robert Power and was really good friends with him. It was a great day for him to win. It's rough for the boys and on his family. He's from Moynalvey and the boys have been with me almost from when I started training.

"They had a lot of bad ones and a few all right ones, but this lad is probably the best we've had (for them).

"To be honest I didn't care about the result once I won it, but I was cheering for the winner."

He added: "That was his Gold Cup and if he never wins again it doesn't matter. He's not a bad horse and could be an Irish National horse."

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