Saldier put in a monster performance when overcoming a lengthy absence to make a winning return to action in the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown and provide trainer Willie Mullins with an incredible 10th winner in the 2m contest.

The Closutton handler saddle three of the five runners and Klassical Dream, who was the leading 2m novice last term and after winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before following up with another Grade 1 success at Punchestown in the spring, was sent off the 2/5 favourite to bag another success and cement his position at the head of the ante post betting for the 2020 Champion Hurdle.

In stark contrast, Saldier was friendless in the market and drifted out to 7/1 as he was having his first run since falling when seemingly travelling better than subsequent ill-fated Champion Hurdle winner Espoir D’Allen in the Grade 3 Fishery Lane Hurdle at Naas in November 2018.

He suffered a broken nose in that crushing fall and spent 371 days on the sidelines recuperating. Everything seemed to be going to plan for Klassical Dream as he tracked Petit Mouchoir into the straight seemingly travelling well, with Saldier coming under pressure. However, when Paul Townend asked Klassical Dream – who had jumped some hurdles as if they were fences – to put the race to bed there was little response and Saldier swept by to win going away by 1 1/2 lengths.

Petit Mouchoir battled back for second, with Klassical Dream a further length back in third. Mullins’ other runner, Sharjah, was fourth.

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Underwhelming effort by Klassical Dream

Mullins told Racing TV:

“We’ve always liked Saldier, but it was just whether he would come back from his injury. His nose was in bits, but we decided not to have it operated and let nature take its course.

“His run in the Fishery Lane showed us he could be Grade One material. He quickened up well at the last and won like a nice horse. Hopefully they will all improve.

He added:

“Klassical Dream threw himself at the first hurdle and then he was just too keen. I think he’ll improve from that, and a stronger gallop will help them all too.”

I felt it was a totally underwhelmingly comeback from Klassical Dream who had been the general 7/2 favourite for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. He is now out to 6/1 and I still couldn’t have him on my mind at that price as he now has plenty to prove.

Saldier is now a top priced 6/1 (from 18/1) with Coral for the Champion Hurdle and has to be a leading contender in what looks a wide-open renewal at this stage.

Faugheen “The Machine” motors to winning chase debut

Faugheen got a quote of 20/1 with William Hill for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival after surviving a couple of errors to run out a convincing winner on his chasing bow in the Naas Oil Beginners Chase at a cracking two day Punchestown meeting.

The 2015 Champion Hurdle hero, dubbed “The Machine”, was making his first start over fences at the age of 11 following a mixed bag last season over the smaller obstacles. Jockey Paul Townend was happy to let nine-times Grade 1 winner Faugheen bowl along in front and everything appeared to be going to plan until he came to the eighth fence.

He met the obstacle all wrong and early uprooted it, forcing Townend to perform miracles and keep the partnership intact. He recovered his lost irons in time to jump the next, but when Faugheen then pecked on landing at the third-last fence and it looked as though his chance of winning had gone. However, class then came into play and the Willie Mullins trained gelding soared over the last two obstacles to win impressively in the end by 7 1/2 lengths from Walk Away.

Faugheen, who has a huge following, was given an enthusiastic return to the winners’ enclosure – including by racegoers at Cheltenham’s November Meeting watching him from the big screens.

Mullins is in no rush to decide where Faugheen will go next, and whilst he clearly does retain plenty of ability it’s ultimately hard to see him adding another Grade 1 success to his illustrious CV come next March given his advancing years.

Battleoverdoyen and Notebook novice chasers to keep onside

Battleoverdoyen made it two out of two over the larger obstacles when landing the 2m 6f Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novice Chase in determined fashion.

The six-year-old, who won his sole start in an Irish point before being purchased by leading owners Gigginstown House, has now won five of his six starts under rules since joining County Meath handler Gordon Elliott. There was lots to loie about the way in which Battleoverdoyen got the job done in a rough race which saw him get bumped and hampered before forging clear on the run-in to beat Any Second Now by five lengths.

As the runner-up is a smart sort who landed the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival back in March in fine style, it gives the form a solid look. The strapping Batteloverdoyen has the potential to go right to the very top over fences, especially when stepped up in trip. As the RSA Chase is over 3m, it looks the obvious target at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival should all go to plan. He can be backed at 12/1 with Ladbrokes for that Grade 1 contest, and I wouldn’t put off anyone backing him each-way at that price.

Notebook, who is also owned by Gigginstown, led home a one-two for trainer Henry De Bromhead in the Grade 2 Craddockstown Novice Chase. Having won a beginners’ chase success at the venue a month earlier, the six-year-old took the step up in class in his stride when staying on strongly to account for 151-rated stable companion Moon Over Germany by five lengths. That taking success has earned Notebook a 25/1 quote with Paddy Power for the Arkle at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and there are certainly more races to be won with him.

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