Walsh hoping Faugheen can make the frame in Aintree Hurdle test

Former two-mile champion finished third at Cheltenham last time

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Ruby Walsh thinks it would be in the realms of fairy tales if Faugheen were to win bounce back Thursday’s Betway Aintree Hurdle.

Winner of the Champion Hurdle in 2015, it would appear that he is in the twilight of his career at 11 years of age.

He ran a meritorious race at the Cheltenham Festival last month when third in the Stayers’ Hurdle and drops half a mile in trip this week.

“He’s never run at Aintree before, he’s usually been saved for Punchestown,” said Walsh of Willie Mullins’ veteran.

“He ran a blinder at Cheltenham in the Stayers’ behind Paisley Park, but this is a different proposition to that race.

“Faugheen is in great order, he travelled super for a long way in the Stayers’, he just couldn’t live with Sam Spinner when we straightened up and Paisley Park came from behind us all and swamped us.

“He ran on after the last, though, having looked like fading. Willie and John Codd (work rider) have been happy with him since.

“It’s probably a bit fairy tale-ish to think he might win, but he has a good chance of finishing in the money.”

There are nine runners in the Grade One, with dual champion hurdler Buveur D’Air set to go off favourite.

“There’s Melon, Buveur D’Air and Verdana Blue, horses from the Champion Hurdle all there,” Walsh told Racing TV.

“He’s dropping back in trip, two and a half should suit us but if you’re looking at Cheltenham leaving a mark or not, I suppose Buveur D’Air, doing what he did (falling) in the Champion Hurdle might mean he’s a bit fresher than the others.

“Melon must have a good chance. The Champion was his best run of the season after he’d been disappointing at Leopardstown twice on quick ground earlier in the season.

“It was softer at Cheltenham and that allowed him to run a good race, but that said, he’d have to up his game to beat Buveur D’Air.”

Despite Buveur D’Air losing his long unbeaten record at Christmas and falling at Cheltenham, Walsh still sees him as the one to beat.

“I think Buveur D’Air is still the one to beat, he’s a dual Champion Hurdle winner. I know Verdana Blue beat him at Christmas, but it looked like she did him for speed more than anything, so two and a half might suit him,” said Walsh.

As well as Buveur D’Air, Nicky Henderson also runs Verdana Blue and Brain Power, another who disappointed in the Champion Hurdle.

Supasundae, second in the race 12 months ago, and Champion Hurdle third Silver Streak add further depth.

The field is completed by Dan Skelton’s County Hurdle winner Ch’tibello and Tom George’s Summerville Boy, who returns to action having been found to be suffering from an injury after disappointing twice earlier in the season.

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