Our columnist Carty Ban reviews all the main talking points of the week past in Irish horse racing.

As I walked from the Grandstand to the parade ring I was thanking my sharp footwork, the rush of middle aged men and ladies in heels rushing in one direction, all vying for a vantage point to see the Machine.

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The symphony of applause that wrapped around a cold Punchestown on Sunday after Faugheen had returned to the track would warm the soul. There’s nothing quite like a jog either to warm the body and that was followed as man, mother and child made way to the parade ring to see the former champion hurdler return to the winner’s enclosure.

As the cheers and smiles erupted from all within and without, you could sense the relief from the Clostutton team. I had a quick cupán tae with an old pal of mine, and the sense of relief from him was palpable. The nerves of seeing a star return from injury is one the grates all managers in sport. Will they last the test, are they as good as they used to be? Willie Mullins had those thoughts in his mind for months and yesterday he could answer some if not all those questions.

Faugheen is certainly back, the way he travelled and tanked along was impressive, he jumped well but for the last and there’s no doubt that he will come on for the blow out. Kempton and the Christmas Hurdle was the first target talked about on track yesterday but racing fans, but I have a feeling they will stick with home this season for his Christmas aim.

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 As much as Willie and Rich Ricci would love another Christmas Hurdle, they will also have the Trainers Championship in the back of the mind, and he will want to keep most of his ammo at home. Unfortunately, not everything went to plan for the Closutton team over the weekend with Ruby Walsh breaking his leg. Ruby more than anyone would have been chomping at the bit to get back on Faugheen, but you can be sure that it will serve as motivation for the Kildare man to get back as soon as possible. Luckily for Ruby it was a clean break and will not require surgery. This will no doubt open the door for other jockeys with Paul Townend now in poll position for rides on Willies runners.

It also opens the door for Davy Russell to extend his lead in the Jockey championship, little would one think that would happen a couple of years ago when he was no longer Giggintown`s retained jockey.

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Presenting Percy was no doubt a disappointment on Sunday, he had jumped so well in Galway, a track that needs jumping, but he was somewhat sluggish in Punchestown, that said he tends to run a poor race here and there and I certainly won’t hold that run against him when it comes to the bigger prizes in the Spring.

On the other hand, a novice chaser that certainly had big prizes stamped all over his performance was Monalee on Saturday. Yes, it’s unfortunate that Invitation Only was an early faller, but it’s hard to fathom how he could have coped with the winner. Henry De Bromhead could barely contain his smile afterwards and although he did quell chat of the RSA being the Cheltenham target one would be foolish not to like what we saw. Sunday saw Rapid Escape add to his growing fanbase with an easy victory under a penalty in the concluding bumper. Now anybody that knows me know that I love bumpers, so much so that I stayed after racing on Sunday to cast my eye on some prospective bumper runners. Rapid Escape is a horse that I really like, its never easy carrying a penalty in races like that, but as we know he won’t be a   runner for Cheltenham as Gordon Elliot told us that he would defiantly not go to the festival. It will be an interesting Champion bumper for Irish fans, with Gigginstown having so many of the impressive bumper winners this year so far, one wonders where this year’s Fayonagh or Briar Hill will come from, but who knows we might see it in Thurles on Thursday.

Finally, Navan sees action next Sunday with one of my favourite races of the year the Troytown Chase, won last year by Empire of Dirt.

If you have never been to Navan before, it is one of the nicest tracks to enjoy racing, not just because I had a winner there, but it throws up some special days just ask Gordon Elliot and his six-timer last year.

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ARTICLE BY CARTY BAN