Irish stars have come to the fore in the last fortnight and a host of Willie Mullins-trained runners have enhanced their already lofty reputations and they feature prominently in our look back at latest National Hunt news from the Emerald. Our Jumping Over The Irish Sea section looks back at some of the finest performances seen on a racecourse, whilst looks forward to imminent races.
Vautour And Faugheen Sparkle On Comeback Runs
Vautour maintained his unblemished record with an imperious first start over fences as he eased to a facile eight-length victory in a Beginners' Chase at Navan and last year's Supreme winner is now a best-priced 4/1 for the Arkle Challenge Trophy and looks the one to beat in the two-mile division. A day earlier we were treated to another masterclass from a Willie Mullins-trained runner as Faugheen bounded to victory in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot to continue his meteoric rise up the rankings. Sent off a short-priced favourite, the 2014 Neptune winner tanked up to the final hurdle and then sprinted clear in sensational fashion to land the Grade 2 and the bookmakers were impressed as they cut him from 5/2 to 2/1 for the 2015 Champion Hurdle.
Annie Power In Race To Be Fit For Festival After Missing Fairyhouse
Annie Power is one of the heavyweights of Willie Mullins' yard, but the star mare was unable to take her place in the Grade 1 Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse and she is now in a race to be fit for the Cheltenham Festival in March. Bookmakers have been forced to ease her odds in the ante-post betting for the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle after she was found to be lame in the lead-up to the aforementioned Fairyhouse contest and Mullins will now have to ease her back into training when she is fully fit. Understandably, she's still a red-hot favourite for the Mares' Hurdle and with Quevega now out the picture she is the class act in the division, but fans of the multiple Graded winner will be hoping that she can make the Prestbury Park extravaganza in the spring.
Un De Sceaux Falls On Chasing Debut At Thurles
Un De Sceaux, who is rivalling the aforesaid Vautour for favouritism in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, was unable to emulate his stablemate's fine chasing debut as the formerly unbeaten hurdler fell in the latter stages at Thurles when a mile clear of his rivals. Jumping impressively for the early part of the race, the six-year-old was tanking along in front when clipping the top of the fence and duly sent Ruby Walsh sprawling to the floor. He was none the worse for his mishap, but the bookmakers eased him slightly in the betting and he is now behind Vautour in the ante-post market and connections will be eager for him to bounce back on his next start.
Bobs Worth Installed Favourite For Lexus Chase Over Christmas
A host of top notch races will take place over the Christmas period in Ireland the stand-out contest is the Grade 1 Lexus Chase, which takes place at Leopardstown on December 28. Nicky Henderson's 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth has been flagged up by the bookmakers as the favourite, but he failed to shine at Cheltenham in March and will need to show he still has the ability to land these premier events. Road To Riches is on the upgrade and will aim to follow up his fine win in the JNWine Champion Chase, whilst the likes of Boston Bob, Don Cossack and reigning Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere will be another notable triumvirate that could line up in this festive cracker.
Don Cossack And Boston Bob Spearhead John Durkan Betting
Gordon Elliott's Don Cossack and Willie Mullins's Boston Bob are the dominant duo in the betting for Sunday's John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown, in what should be a competitive feature event in the Emerald Isle this weekend. A stellar cast could line up in the 2m 4f contest that has been won by some of the elite Irish chasers and Gold Cup champion Lord Windermere could make his seasonal reappearance, with First Lieutenant aiming to propel back into the fold as a genuine Grade 1 chaser in what is always one of the highlights of the season on the Irish National Hunt calendar in December.