FOOTBALL managers from Barcelona to Berwick who would envy the depth of the talent that Willie Mullins can call upon.

Ireland’s champion jumps trainer has totalled 42 winners in December alone – Paul Nicholls reached his century for the season with a winner at Doncaster yesterday – but he was undone at Leopardstown by one that was put on the transfer list.

The little world of racing was shocked when Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, removed 60 horses from Mullins' yard in September citing a dispute over an increase in training fees. The loss did not appear too acute for Mullins, who has won four Grade Ones this week, but that run came to an end, coincidentally, in the Ryanair Hurdle.

Despite having both Faugheen and Annie Power, the last two winners of the Champion Hurdle, still on the side lines Mullins was able to field seven-time Grade One winner Nichols Canyon as the favourite. But he was no match for Petit Mouchoir, a former stable companion but now trained by Henry de Bromhead and owned by O’Leary, who kicked clear from the penultimate flight to win by seven lengths ridden by Brian Cooper.

O’Leary has hinted at a possible rapprochement between himself and Mullins but, in the meantime, De Bromhead is making the most of his opportunity. "I'll speak to Eddie and Michael [O'Leary], but I think we have every right to consider the Champion Hurdle,” De Bromhead said. “He hasn't had a hard season thus far so the Irish Champion Hurdle [at Leopardstown on January 29th] might be a plan. I'll have to speak to the lads.”

That race has been indicated as a possible starting point for Faugheen, who has been off the track since February with a suspensory ligament injury.

He remains ante-post favourite for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, with Annie Power next in the list, but Petit Mouchoir must now be rated a legitimate contender. He looked to be going well until falling in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle last month and De Bromhead said: "He was a good horse last year and had some great runs at the back end. He's tough. Bar Newcastle with the fall, he's done nothing wrong with us. He's a lovely horse to do anything with and I'm just delighted to see him go and do that. I'm just blown away."

Donald McCain was another trainer with something to celebrate as he reached the milestone of his 1000th winner when Lough Derg Jewel won the maiden hurdle at Kelso, but the news was less hopeful for Mark Bradstock.

His stable star, Coneygree, will not run again before attempting to win the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup for a second time in March. The winner of the race in 2015, Coneygree returned from over a year out with a leg injury when he finished runner-up to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase at Haydock Park in November. He had been due to run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Monday, but was scratched following an unsatisfactory workout.

Bradstock’s wife, Sara, who rides the horse in all his work said: "He's good and we're hoping he'll be ready to run in the Gold Cup, but he won't run before then.

"He's fine, but it came out in the wash that he's jarred himself a little bit. It's not a serious injury, but as we all know, while he is a miracle horse, he is fragile. He'll be fine by the time the Gold Cup comes around, the question is whether we'll have him ready."