It has certainly been a trying season for Irish champion National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins. Leading owners Gigginstown House Stud withdrew 60 horses from Closutton in the Autumn, triple Cheltenham Festival winner Vautour suffered a fatal injury in a freak accident at home and now former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen and Min have joined Annie Power amongst others on the sidelines. The 2015 Champion Hurdler was found to have suffered a stress fracture to his right ilium bone, while last year's Supreme NH runner-up has bruised his cannonbone. It is a major blow to Mullins and it continues the rotten luck endured by Rich and Susannah Ricci this winter.
Talking of horses who won't be seen again this season. Unfortunately, my early fancy for the County Hurdle, namely Campeador, will miss the rest of the campaign and I was speaking to Brian Ellison at Musselburgh yesterday. The Malton based trainer told me his unbeaten bumper horse Ravenhill Road won't be sighted on a racecourse until the Autumn having incurred a minor setback. Brian didn't appear to be too concerned about the injury but owner Phil Martin didn't want to take any risks with such an exciting prospect.
Lough Derg Spirit, who is featured in Declan Phelan's Irish Pointers in One Jump Ahead, regained the winning thread in the two mile novice hurdle at the Scottish track yesterday. Jumping slickly throughout, he readily saw off the likes of Peter The Mayo Man. It remains to be seen whether he runs at the Cheltenham Festival. Either way, he is an exciting prospect for fences next term because Nicky Henderson's charge is such a good jumper.
Unlike stablemate Behind Time at Sandown on Saturday, I thought Wotzizname ran an encouraging race in the Pertemps qualifier at Musselburgh yesterday. Runner-up over fences at Aintree in November, Harry Fry's former pointer underwent a breathing operation soon afterwards and was having his first start since. Rated 140, he kept on well to finish fourth behind El Bandit and will appreciate the stiffer track in the final at the Cheltenham Festival next month.
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