Timeform preview Friday's Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle and pick out a bet.
"Gordon Elliott’s best chance in the race could well come courtesy of Mick Jazz..."
Much like the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle won by Buveur d'Air in recent weeks, it is unlikely that we'll learn a great deal more about Faugheen in Friday's Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown. The pair are neck and neck at the top of the betting for the Champion Hurdle - general third-favourite Melon is generally available at 14/1 - and that is unlikely to change drastically before the Cheltenham Festival provided both avoid injury.
Faugheen could hardly have done much more to suggest that all of his ability is still intact when winning the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on his return by 16 lengths and, 22 lb clear of his nearest rival on Timeform ratings ahead of this race, defeat here seems a very unlikely outcome.
Barring The Game Changer - who has finished weakly on both of his last starts - the other three other runners in the race are at least closely matched on Timeform ratings, with just 3 lb separating Campeador, Cilaos Emery and Mick Jazz, and the battle for second place could be the most interesting betting angle in the race.
Stablemate of Faugheen, Cilaos Emery is currently second in the betting. He was having just his fourth start when he ran in last season's Supreme and posted an improved effort when upsetting Melon - second at Cheltenham - in the Champion Novices' Hurdle at Punchestown in April. He ran a good fourth on his reappearance in the Hatton's Grace behind Apple's Jade earlier this month, and could yet have more to offer given his lightly-raced profile.
Campeador had been Faugheen's main market rival in the Morgiana but was disappointing upped in grade, beaten in third place when falling at the last - his third fall in his last four starts. He is capable of better than that and is still lightly raced, but Gordon Elliott's best chance in the race could well come courtesy of Mick Jazz, who arrives here on the back of a more positive run.
Mick Jazz was two and a half lengths behind Cilaos Emery in the Hatton's Grace, but the suspicion remains that two miles - preferably well-run - will prove his optimum, and the drop back in trip here is a positive. Faugheen is very likely to lead at an honest enough pace - his sole defeat under Rules came in a tactical renewal of the Morgiana in 2015 - which should benefit Mick Jazz, and of the three entrants who are essentially playing for second place behind Faugheen, he probably doesn't deserve to be the outsider. Backing him for a place/without the favourite could be the way to go.
Place back Mick Jazz in the 14:30 at Leopardstown