One of Willie Mullins’s big hopes for the Cheltenham festival Faugheen has been ruled out through injury.
Faugheen won the Champion Hurdle brilliantly in 2015 but he missed the trip to back to England in 2016 for the chance to win back-to-back wins with injury.
Now with leading Irish trainer Mullins has confirmed that Faugheen has a stress fracture and stable mate Min – who was due to go in the Arkle – will also not make the festival due to a knee problem.
“We had hoped Faugheen had just tweaked a muscle, but we’ve had it checked out and it’s a stress fracture,” said Mullins.
“Min has a bruise. Hopefully both will still make the track this season.”
Mullins is certainly having a tough time of it on the injury front with Annie Power also ruled out which followed the shock death of the outstanding Vautour.
Bookmakers BetVictor have been first to price up the new market for the Champion Hurdle and they are making Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air the new favourite at 7/2.
Spokesperson Jack Milner: “Some ante-post punters will be left pocketless after the defection of the last two winners, Annie Power and Faugheen, but big prices have been laid on the new front three in the market; Yanworth (12/1), Petit Mouchoir (25/1) and Buveur D’Air (25/1) with the latter now made favourite after Faugheen’s unfortunate defection.”
Champion Hurdle prices from BetVictor
Buveur D’Air 7/2 (from 4s)
Petit Mouchoir 9/2
Yorkhill 5/1 (from 7s)
Vroum Vroum Mag 10/1
We spoke to one of our racing experts and bloodstock agent Paddy Barry, who can only feel for Mullins and the respective owner Ricci Rich.
“That is racing, it can happen at anytime – but to lose Faugheen and Min is horrible for Willie and Ricci, but you cannot look anywhere over than Buveur D’Air now, his price is just going to get shorter and shorter,” he told TheGamblingTimes.com.