This Sunday sees the annual running of the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. The Morgiana is a Grade 1 hurdles race run over two miles and has been won by a number of high-class horses over the years including Danoli, Hardy Eustace and Hurricane Fly.
All eyes will be on this year’s Morgiana Hurdle as the unbeaten seven-year old Faugheen makes his seasonal debut for trainer Willie Mullins. Winner of his nine races to date, Faugheen was in outstanding form last season, winning three consecutive Grade 1 races including the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. Sunday will see Faugheen run off a mark of 174 but he should have far too much class for the rest of the field as he starts his season which connections hope will end with him retaining his Cheltenham Champion Hurdle crown.
Trainer Mullins also has Nichols Canyon and Wicklow Brave entered in the race. Nichols Canyon enjoyed a successful first season over hurdles, winning five of his seven races including the Grade 1 Mersey Novices Hurdle at Aintree and the Grade 1 Irish Novices Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. Sunday’s race will see how much Nichols Canyon has improved over the summer, with a race against Faugheen offering the opportunity to see how good the five-year old really is. Wicklow Brave has been campaigned both over the flat and over hurdles this summer, placing in both the Group 1 Irish St Leger and the Qipco Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot. Mullins has won the Morgiana Hurdle for the last four years and with three high-class entries this year, few would bet against him from making it five in a row.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead and connections have decided to supplement Identity Thief for Sundays’ race after he comfortably won a Grade 2 hurdle at Down Royal at the end of October. Defeating the Willie Mullins trained Whiteout in that race, Identity Thief looks set to have a decent career over obstacles but it would be a major upset if he could defeat Faugheen off level weights on Sunday.
Irish owner JP McManus will be represented by Plinth and Thomas Edison. A winner of the Grade 2 Istabraq Hurdle at Tipperary at the start of October, the Aidan O’Brien trained Plinth then fell three from home in the Lismullen Hurdle at Navan last Sunday. Thomas Edison is trained by Tony Martin and was last seen when finishing third behind Plinth in the Istabraq Hurdle. Now on a career high mark of 150, it would be a massive surprise if Thomas Edison had the quality to take Sunday’s race.
Sunday’s field is set to be completed by the Peter Fahey trained six-year old mare Queen Alphabet.
Faugheen is the 1.20 (1/5) favourite for success on Sunday, with Nichols Canyon 7 (6/1), Wicklow Brave 13 (12/1), Identity Thief 17 (16/1), Thomas Edison 26 (25/1) and Plinth at 34 (33/1). The horse racing tip for Sunday’s Morgiana Hurdle is a straight forecast bet of Faugheen to defeat his stablemate Nichols Canyon.
By: Scott McGlynn