Faugheen destroys field to win Christmas Hurdle at Kempton

Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old strengthens grip on Champion Hurdle market

Tony McCoy riding Jollyallan clear the last to win The William Hill  Novices’ Hurdle Race at Kempton. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Tony McCoy riding Jollyallan clear the last to win The William Hill Novices’ Hurdle Race at Kempton. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

Kempton racing: Faugheen was a hugely impressive winner of the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton to strengthen his grip on the Champion Hurdle market.

Willie Mullins sent the six-year-old over for the Grade One admitting he was surprised at the progress his charge had made in the last 12 months.

Ruby Walsh was happy to track the pacesetting Blue Heron on a track than many thought could be too sharp for him, having won over three miles in heavy ground this time last year.

But Walsh never looked troubled at any stage and turning into the straight he gave his mount an inch of rein and he shot clear.

The 4 to 11 favourite made a minor blunder at the last but it did not halt his momentum and he crossed the line eight lengths clear of Purple Bay.

Paul Nicholls’s Fighting Fifth winner Irving was pulled up.

Tony McCoy gave the bumper Kempton crowd just what they hoped for when bringing well-backed 5 to 4 favourite Jollyallan home an unchallenged winner of the William Hill Novices’ Hurdle.

The JP McManus-owned winner has always been the apple of trainer Harry Fry’s eye and he oozed class throughout the two-mile contest, with his pilot gradually turning the screw on his rivals turning out of the back stretch.

Sempre Medici had closed to within a length and looked set to mount a challenge only to guess at the final flight, lose his back legs and with it all chance of victory. The eventual winning margin was four and a half lengths as Walsh accepted defeat on the runner-up.

Jollyallan received quotes of 16 to 1 (from 20 to 1) by Paddy Power and 20-1 (from 25 to 1) with Boylesports for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Fry said it was too early to talk about Cheltenham and commented: “I think it suited us that Arzal went off at such a good gallop, and while my horse’s jumping was better, AP (McCoy) said he was still clumsy on occasions.

“We’ve done masses of schooling with him but he’s such a big horse that the penny hasn’t dropped and he’s still a work in progress, and far from being the finished article.

“We’ll take it one step at a time. Obviously his game is going to be fences, but for now he’ll stick to the two-mile trip over hurdles. He’s going the right way, and I hope that will continue.”

Tom George reckons he has a Cheltenham prospect in William Hill Novices’ Limited handicap Chase scorer Stellar Notion.

The 4 to 1 joint-favourite put in some superb leaps under Paddy Brennan on the way to a length and a half and two and a half length triumph over Knock House and Generous Ransom.

George waxed lyrical about the Roger Brookhouse-owned gelding, who seems to handle differing types of ground and has scope to get further than this two and a half miles.

The Gloucestershire handler said: “He’s done nothing wrong, and the only time he was beaten over hurdles was when we tried to hold him up.

“He’ll go on softish ground, is very happy on good ground and is the type of horse that ticks all the right boxes.

“He’s only a baby, and still improving, and he has that pace as well as being a terrific jumper. He’s definitely a Cheltenham prospect, and we can always go back to two miles if needs be.

“Mr Brookhouse is a big gun in the yard, sending us these lovely big staying chasers.”

What looked a fascinating Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (In Memory Of Nigel Clark) was turned into a rout by Coneygree.

In truth, his task was made much easier by the jumping frailties of many of his rivals, including the hot favourite Saphir Du Rheu.

Having made a couple of niggly errors early on, Saphir Du Rheu departed early on the second circuit.

Creepy had already ruined his chance with a shuddering error and not long after that Carraig Mor departed, when challenging Coneygree for the lead.

Mark Bradstock’s seven-year-old, who had to sit out last season with injury, barely missed a beat at the head of affairs and the 100 to 30 chance soon had Sausalito Sunrise struggling when he fell, too.

That left Virak in second but he was treading water in the straight and was eventually caught for second by Warden Hill, who was initially reluctant to race, but the pair were 40 lengths behind Nico de Boinville on Coneygree, in a race formerly known as the Feltham.

De Boinville said: “I was completely oblivious (to what was happening in behind) which possibly says a lot about me.

“You dream of being on horses like this when you’re a young boy. It’s fantastic to be associated with him and the whole Bradstock team.

“The world is his oyster at the moment.

“I think (Cheltenham) will be right up his street. He jumps and travels, that is his game, and he grinds them down.”

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