Sunday racing: what's on TV and who to watch

Petit Mouchoir and Bryan Cooper

Petit Mouchoir: could be contesting favouritism for the Champion Hurdle

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

 By Stuart Riley 8:34PM 28 JAN 2017 

SUNDAY’S action may have been robbed of its star performer after Faugheen was withdrawn from the Irish Champion Hurdle with a muscle injury on Saturday, but in Petit Mouchoir the race has an able deputy with Cheltenham ambitions.

This Leopardstown card is one that has thrown up three winners who have gone to win at the festival in the last five years – while a further runner who placed on the card has went on to victory at Prestbury Park in March – so there will still be clues aplenty despite Faugheen’s absence.

Recent history

Despite four of the last five Champion Hurdle winners being trained in Ireland just one Irish Champion Hurdle (3.30pm) winner in that time has completed the double – Hurricane Fly in 2013. He also did the double in 2011.

But in recent years it is the card’s other Grade 1, the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase (2.30pm), that has had more of an impact on the festival. Douvan and Un De Sceaux, the last two winners, have gone on to Racing Post Arkle glory, while back in 2015 Martello Tower was second to Outlander in the Grade 2 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors “50,000 Cheltenham Bonus Stable Staff” Novice Hurdle (2.00pm) over 2m4f before going on to win the Albert Bartlett.

Who to look out for

All the action is on At The Races (Sky – 415; Virgin 534). The big one still features four very good horses, with seven-time Grade 1 winner Nichols Canyon and stablemate Footpad bidding to give Willie Mullins a seventh straight win in the race.

They face last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov, who has failed to sparkle so far this season but accounted for none other than Apple’s Jade that day, while Petit Mouchoir could potentially be contesting festival favouritism with Faugheen and Yanworth, both a best-priced 7-2, should he win well.

Bleu Et Rouge (Barry Geraghty)

Bleu Et Rouge: is one of two runners for Willie Mullins in the card’s other Grade 1 

  PICTURE: Patrick McCann (  

In the Arkle, Grade 1-winning hurdler Identity Thief faces his Henry de Bromhead-trained stablemate Some Plan and the Willie Mullins-trained pair of Bleu Et Rouge and Royal Caviar in an open looking contest. Whatever wins will emerge as a major contender to carry on the race’s legacy as the key Arkle trial.

The Grade 2 in which Martello Tower placed also looks sure to provide clues with mares’ novices’ hurdle third favourite Let’s Dance taking on eight others – six of whom are quoted in novice markets.

The closing bumper (4.30pm) has thrown up classy horses such as Jezki in the past but on a day where the headline news going in is the absence of one superstar it could be in the meeting’s first race, the Donohue Marquees Maiden Hurdle (1.30pm), that we witness the birth of another.

There have been all sorts of whispers and rumours coming from the Willie Mullins yard that Melon is a serious beast. On Sunday we find out if they are based on substance as he runs for the first time over hurdles – and the first time since finishing fourth on the Flat at Lyon Parilly 506 days [more than 16 months] ago.

What about elsewhere?

The day’s other meetings come from Fontwell and Sedgefield, but look light on classy runners. The feature at Fontwell is the class 3 2m1½f handicap hurdle (3.10) while at Sedgefield Mr Mole, the horse from whom’s back Sir Anthony McCoy announced his intention to retire after winning the 2015 Game Spirit Chase, faces five rivals in the 2m3½f handicap chase. He has not won since that Grade 2 win but has consequently dropped to a mark of 138. He is now trained by Ben Haslam.

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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