Technical difficulties for Faugheen the Machine as Canyon is grand

It was supposed to be a cake-walk for Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle on Sunday as the Champion Hurdler was sent off a hot 1/6 favourite.

But events at Punchestown didn’t follow the script as Willie Mullins’ star, nicknamed ‘Faugheen the Machine’, was defeated by stablemate Nichols Canyon.

Whether you put it down to being rusty on his first run back this season, or the winner has improved rapidly over the summer, or simply Faugheen not being as good as we thought, there was plenty to mull over after the race.

On the betting front Ladbrokes pushed out the defending champ from Evens to 6/4 to retain his crown at the Festival, while the victor was shortened from 12/1 into 6/1 second-favouritism.

The distance of ¾ lengths might not seem much to worry about, but for a horse that many suggested could go the season unbeaten will have come as a massive shock.

For Mullins though, training the first three home – with Wicklow Brave in third – would have been his aim as they went down to the start, although the trio coming home in the order they did probably wouldn’t have been on his agenda.

Defeat was the first in Faugheen's career

Defeat was the first in Faugheen’s career

The County Carlow handler was also reaping the rewards at Cork over the weekend, with a double in the opening two races on the card.

The second of those came in the shape of Bellshill, a horse Mullins’ son Patrick had eluded “would win whatever race he ran” during a podcast last month.

Winner of the Grade 1 bumper at the Punchestown Festival in April, the five-year-old certainly triumphed like an animal with a big future ahead of him.

Coming home nine lengths clear, without being fully pushed out, the 2/7 jolly delivered on Mullins’ promise under Paul Townend.

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham could be his long term goal, a race in which he was cut from 14/1 to 12/1 for.

The future looks bright for Bellshill

The future looks bright for Bellshill

The Irish racing over the past few days wasn’t simply the Willie Mullins show, as Henry De Bromhead sent his exciting novice chaser Sizing John into Graded company.

After jumping exuberantly on his debut over fences, last season’s Supreme third took in the Craddockstown Novices’ Chase as his handler bid to test his Arkle credentials.

And while he is likely to have to step forward again to put it up to favourite Douvan, Ann and Alan Potts’ gelding put in a smart performance to easily see off his three rivals.

Distances between the quartet of eight, 28 and 69 lengths show how much the victor took out of them under Johnny Burke.

Cut from 14/1 to 12/1 for success in the Arkle, the son of Midnight Legend looks a real progressive chaser and will surely have plenty more big days in the sun, after taking Sunday’s Grade 2 prize.

Henry De Bromhead won the Arkle in 2010 with Sizing Europe

Henry De Bromhead won the Arkle in 2010 with Sizing Europe

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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