Faugheen was spectacular at Punchestown last year (Brian Lawless/PA)Willie Mullins has announced Faugheen will not run at the Punchestown Festival next week.

The 2015 Champion Hurdle hero won the Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown 12 months ago and Mullins had hoped to get him back to defend his crown.

However, he has been winless in four runs this season, and was pulled up when last seen at Aintree, an outing which came after a meritorious effort when third to Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Mullins tweeted: “Unfortunately we withdrew #Faugheen from @punchestownrace this morning and he will now go on an early summer break.”

The Rich Ricci-owned 11-year-old has won 14 of his 22 career starts to date under rules, earning just short of £1 million in prize-money.