Faugheen rockets to Champion Hurdle favouritism after return

The 2015 Champion Hurdle hero could not have been more convincing on return

Faugheen and  Paul Townend clearing the last to win the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. Photograph:   Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Faugheen and Paul Townend clearing the last to win the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Faugheen is once again at the head of the ante-post market on the Champion Hurdle after an impressive return to action in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.

The 2015 Champion Hurdle hero could not have been more convincing in the Grade One contest, on what was his eagerly-awaited comeback after 665 days on the sidelines, having last been seen winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2016.

Paul Townend, deputising on Willie Mullins’s star for the injured Ruby Walsh, let Faugheen bowl along in front, and once he asked him to go and put the race to bed the 4-9 favourite fairly sprinted clear.

Jezki, another former Champion Hurdle victor, was a distant second. Campeador fell at the last when well out of contention.

Faugheen was cut to 5-2 market leader from 5-1 for the two-mile championship at Cheltenham in March by Paddy Power, with RaceBets and Betfair going 11-4 from 5-1.

Mullins said: “It was very good. The horse did all the talking today. I’ve been talking up to now, and you’ve all seen what I was saying. I don’t know what I want to do now, I’m just happy to get today over with. We’ll go home and hopefully he’ll be all right in the morning.

“Paul was very happy with him. He said he moved up through the gears, he took a big jump at the last one down the back. He was all wrong, stood back, let fly and landed with his hind legs on top of it but it didn’t take a thing out of him.

Tons in the tank

“He took a blow after the second last, but as soon as he had that blow he motored on again. He said he had tons in the tank going down to the last, and he was going too fast at the last and fiddled out over it.

“He did it well, and he didn’t win by just hanging on. He was having his first run of the year against three horses that are super-fit from running. He just jumped out and took the race from them.

“The race was set up for any one of those fit from summer racing. Discussing it with Ruby and Paul beforehand, both of them felt the horse was good enough to do that, and if he got tired or needed the race so be it.

“We were going to go out and bring the race to them. We were hoping we had the class, and he showed today he did.”

He went on: “He was ready just after Punchestown [in the spring] so it’s nice to get out on the track and let everyone see that we weren’t talking absolute and utter rubbish! You get the feeling sometimes that people don’t believe, and that you are just saying things.

“That’s the way he’s been. He was like that last May, and in early June he could have come and put in a performance better than that I’d say, as he was readier.

“We had to let him down and build him back up again. He’s been very good at home, and we haven’t had any setbacks with him.

“Hopefully we won’t after today. Hopefully he’s fine in the morning, and over the next few days, and we’ll just prepare him for his next run.

Best route

“I have no plans, and I’m just happy to get past today. We’ll go home and reflect on it, and see what our best route is from here.”

Townend said: “He was deadly, unbelievable – he looks as good as ever. I wanted to keep it simple, I thought I was on the best horse and the best way to get him beat was to complicate it. It worked out – he’s a very, very good horse. He’s the real deal.”

Frank Berry, racing manager to Jezki’s owner JP McManus, said of the Jessica Harrington-trained nine-year-old: “Our lad is in good form and ran well. We’ll probably up him in trip at Christmas.”

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