• Racing/
  • Faugheen Storms To Neptune Triumph

Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle (Registered As The Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle) (Grade 1) 2m 5f

  • (4yo+, 2m 5f, Class 1, 15 runners)
  • Winner £68,340 2nd £25,644 3rd £12,840 4th £6,396 5th £3,216 6th £1,608
  • Going: Good, Good to Soft in places
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 4m 54.90s
  • Off time: 13:32:31
  • Last Updated: March 12 2014, 14:24 GMT

Faugheen made no mistake as the red-hot favourite in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Faugheen jumps to victory in the Neptune
Faugheen jumps to victory in the Neptune

Trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, the heavily-backed 6/4 favourite powered home to beat Ballyalton by four and a half lengths, with the winner's stable companion Rathvinden a further half-length back in third.

Much in the same way as Vautour won the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle for the same connections on day one, Faugheen simply outclassed his opposition and never really looked in much trouble, despite making small mistakes and the fourth-last and penultimate flights.

Cole Harden and Creepy were the early pace-setters, with Red Sherlock also in a prominent position, while Walsh had Faugheen settled sweetly in fifth.

He made his move at the top of the hill and had kicked a couple of lengths clear on turning into the straight.

Ballyalton and Rathvinden finished strongly after both encountering some traffic problems as the leaders tired, but they had no chance of catching the impressive winner.

Mullins is already looking forward to seeing his charge over the larger obstacles next season, saying: "He looks a fair sort. We always thought he was a chaser in the making and I'd prefer to go chasing with him next year.

"We'll just see what next season brings. When he blundered at the third-last, I thought maybe that was it.

"But he picked up and went away. He looks a bit above average.

"We weren't sure which race to go for as we had a good one for the two-mile race and a good one for the three-mile, so he just slotted in here really."

Asked to compare Faugheen with his Supreme victor Vautour, Mullins added: "Vautour is a different level."

  • Horses work on a misty morning at Prestbury Park.
  • The cold start saw some of the Cheltenham employees out in first-time headgear...
  • Ruby Walsh looks pensive ahead of day two of the meeting.
  • The ladies arrive in their finery on Ladies Day...
  • and it looks as if spectacular hats are the order of the day...
  • as warm smiles melted the morning mists.
  • A racegoer left a floral tribute to Arkle.
  • Punters planned their bets in the big handicaps with military precision...
  • John Motson was among the racegoers at Prestbury Park on Wednesday...
  • Creepy sets a fast pace under Ian Popham in the Neptune...
  • but it's another winner for Ireland as Faugheen clears the last in fine style...
  • ....and the sun shines on favourite backers at Cheltenham.
  • Ruby Walsh salutes the crowd on the way back to the enclosures.
  • Life's good for Faugheen's owner Rich Ricci...
  • The runners are under orders for the RSA Chase
  • and as they come to the last O'Faolain's Boy has to fend off the attentions of Smad Place...
  • and a delighted Barry Geraghty claims his third RSA.
  • The Princess Royal and Zara Tindall watch their picks with interest
  • They begin the run for home in a gruelling renewal of the Coral Cup...
  • and Whisper is kicked clear with Get Me Out Of Here in pursuit...
  • Winning rider, Nico de Boinville punches the air in delight.
  • SIre De Grugy stays on stoutly up the hill to claim the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
  • The new and old guard with Sire De Grugy leaves Sizing Europe in his wake.
  • The new champion is patted by a delighted Jamie Moore...
  • Connections celebrate with their pride and joy.
  • Jamie and Gary Moore collect the Queen Mother trophy.
  • Sire De Grugy gives a grin as Jamie Moore looks on...
  • Balthazar King (red with blue stars) makes ground in the Cross Country Chase...
  • ...and it's many happy returns for the former winner under Richard Johnson.
  • Richard Johnson acknowledges the crowd after his victory.
  • Hawk High gets the better of the luckless Katgary in the Fred Winter...
  • and Brian Hughes  has the sweet taste of victory after a near-miss on Tuesday.
  • A downcast Tony McCoy returns after taking a fall from Goodwood Mirage.
  • It was a mixed day for some punters at Cheltenham...
  • Silver Concorde was a big priced winner of the bumper under Robbie McNamara...
  • but with the first six home all trained in Ireland - the tricolour was in evidence.
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A delighted Walsh said: "He had a look at the second-last and I upped the revs.

"Willie said all along that there was a lot under the bonnet and he was right.

"He's a smashing horse."

Winning owner Rich Ricci has an embarrassment of riches in the novice hurdle division and said: "He's beautiful, he jumped very well.

"He's been a very difficult horse to keep right, Willie and the whole team have done a magical job to keep him right.

"He's great for the future."

Ian Williams believes runner-up Ballyalton will be even more proficient when he is sent chasing.

The trainer said: "I'm absolutely thrilled. He was clearly beaten by a very good horse.

"You could draw a line through his last run at Cheltenham, and he's had a nice break since then.

"He's a chaser, not a hurdler, and we'll just have to decide whether to go over fences at the end of this campaign or after he's had a summer break."

Mullins said of third-placed Rathvinden: "He ran well but missed the break and was never in a position to challenge.

"Paul (Townend, jockey) just said he didn't think he was at home on the quicker ground."

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