Nicky Henderson is delighted to get Fusil Raffles back to the track in the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown.
Fusil Raffles put himself in contention for the Cheltenham Festival with an impressive victory in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton in February on his British debut, having left Guillaume Macaire’s stable in France.
But he injured himself in that race and was quickly ruled out of the Festival’s Triumph Hurdle – which was won by another Henderson juvenile, Pentland Hills.
The Seven Barrows trainer has had to show patience but is happy to report Fusil Raffles is ready to make his comeback on Saturday.
Henderson said: “We had to mend that hind leg of Fusil Raffles’ after he got a horrible cut when he won the Adonis Hurdle.
“But that has gone very well, and he did his first bit of fast work last week, so we are on schedule.
Fakir D’oudairies was only a neck behind Pentland Hills in the Grade One juvenile hurdle at Aintree, after finishing fourth to Klassical Dream when taking on older horses in the Supreme at Cheltenham.
His trainer Joseph O’Brien is expecting another bold display.
“Fakir D’oudairies is being geared towards Punchestown, and the rain around will suit him,” he said.
“He’s been to England three times and he’s been busy all year, but I think Punchestown being a stiffer track will suit him better than Aintree.”
French Made was only eighth in the Triumph Hurdle on just her second start over hurdles, but she stepped up markedly on that run to win a Grade Two contest at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday.
The French import got the better of Triumph third Gardens Of Babylon by half a length, and Willie Mullins’ charge has a second opportunity at the top level.
“She won well at Fairyhouse and she’s improving away,” said Mullins’ assistant David Casey.
“It’s a competitive race again tomorrow. But we’re happy with her, and if she can bring the Fairyhouse form with her – it’s a quick turnaround – she should be competitive.”
Padraig Roche is hoping Way Back Home can step up after several good efforts at a lower level.
“I’m looking forward to running him. He’s won his maiden and a Grade Three,” said the Kildare trainer.
“He’s a lot to find on ratings. But we’ll give it a go, and the owners are delighted to have a runner in a good race at Punchestown. Hopefully he’ll run well.
“He ran in quite a few good maidens, and we were happy when he won his maiden in Fairyhouse – then he stepped up to Grade Three.
“The ground was probably a bit on the quick side for him at Fairyhouse the last day. But he’s come out of it well, and if the ground is on the easy side I hope he’ll run a bit better.”
The Gordon Elliott-trained duo of Coko Beach and Surin also have form at a high level, and complete what looks a fascinating renewal.