Mullins relies on Vroum Vroum
Willie Mullins must rely on crack mare Vroum Vroum Mag if he is to win the 32Red Christmas Hurdle for a third year in a row at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Yanworth will face a maximum of five opponents
Mullins and owner Rich Ricci have dominated the Grade One contest in recent seasons with Faugheen, but he has not been seen since winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in January, after which he suffered an injury and missed the defence of his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March.
A bruised foot meant his planned return in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown last month had to be shelved, although he does hold an engagement in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown next week.
Vroum Vroum Mag – who lost her unbeaten record for Mullins in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse last time out – also has options at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.
A decision on where she goes is likely after she has worked on Thursday morning, according to rider Ruby Walsh.
"She'll have to work again tomorrow. I think declarations are Friday," said Walsh.
"She seems well. She came out of her race nicely when Apple's Jade beat her, but there's obviously Yanworth and The New One. It's going to be a small field, but she looks to be in good order.
"I suppose when a horse gets beaten it takes the shine off them a little, but we still think she's a very good mare and she'll give a good account of herself getting 7lb from the geldings."
Although Faugheen did not figure among the possibles for Kempton, Walsh believes the 2015 Champion Hurdle hero will be back in action shortly.
He told Racing UK: "Willie didn't enter Faugheen. I don't think he thought Faugheen was ready to go to England just yet.
"Faugheen is fine, not a bother on him. He's in at Leopardstown on the 29th. I don't know if he's going to run there or not, but it won't be too long before you see him.
"I rode him on Tuesday. He was fresh and well and looks a million dollars. I wouln't be too worried about him."
Yanworth heads a small but select list of six entries for the Kempton showpiece.
Alan King's exciting six-year-old, second in last season's Neptune Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham, is going down the two-mile route after making a winning reappearance over two and a half miles at Ascot last month.
King said: "He's very well, we want to find out if he is a Champion Hurdle prospect and Kempton will certainly tell us that. It looks like it will be a small field, but I'd imagine it will be a proper test."
Yanworth's owner JP McManus is also represented by My Tent Or Yours, who took this prize in 2013.
The Nicky Henderson-trained 10-year-old was runner-up to The New One in the International Hurdle at Cheltenham on his latest start.
The New One, whose novice-chasing career has been put on hold by Nigel Twiston-Davies, will bid to make it third time lucky in this race having taken second prize in 2013 and 2015.
Richard Johnson rode for the first time in what was an all-the-way win at Cheltenham, but Twiston-Davies expects to have son, Sam, back in the saddle.
He said: "We are very excited about running him as he must have a big shout. Very much so we will be riding him from the front again.
"Sam (Twiston-Davies) will ride him this time, I'm sure. It was lovely to see him back at his best last time, although really he has never been away from his best."
Dan Skelton's Ch'Tibello, who had My Tent Or Yours back in second place when successful at Haydock, is also in the line-up.
The Richard Harper-trained Gray Wolf River completes the sextet.
Leave us a comment!
Share this story:
Subscribe to our Newsletter today to receive Free Horse Racing Tips.
Simply fill out the form below and wait for the Free Tips to land in your inbox.