• Racing/
  • Faugheen Blows Rivals Away

Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m

  • (5yo+, 2m, Class 1, 8 runners)
  • Winner €55,800 2nd €17,100 3rd €8,100 4th €2,700 5th €1,800
  • Going: Good to Yielding
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 3m 57.60s
  • Off time: 16:21:57
  • Last Updated: April 29 2014, 19:40 BST

The gamble to drop back to two miles paid off in style as Faugheen destroyed his rivals to score at Punchestown.

Ruby Walsh and Faugheen come home well clear of their rivals.
Ruby Walsh and Faugheen come home well clear of their rivals.

The impressive winner of the Neptune Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham was called up as a late deputy for stablemate Vautour when the final declarations were made for this Grade One contest.

But any doubts as to whether he could prove as effective back at two miles were silenced by this display.

Asked to quicken up from the front rounding the home turn, the 1/2 favourite suddenly kicked into top gear and pulled clear from high-quality rivals.

A fluent jump at the last only extended the advantage and he passed the winning post 12 lengths clear of Valseur Lido (9/1) with Sgt Reckless (8/1) getting up for third place in a bunch finish from The Liquidator and Western Boy.

Winning rider Ruby Walsh, who has only just returned from injuries sustained at Cheltenham, spent most of the run-in merely patting his horse down the neck and he seemed as thrilled as anyone by the winner's performance.

"I'd say this horse will have Willie [Mullins, trainer] scratching his head now," he said. "That was a hell of a performance. He's beaten them 12 lengths but it could have been 25.

"All credit to Patrick [Mullins]. He said this horse had improved since Cheltenham and he'd been pressing to run here.

"I was fairly adamant the run in Cheltenham would improve him a hell of a lot, jumping-wise.

"He'd won soft races and never been tested and today he jumped like a buck down the back. When I opened him up in the straight... Oh my God, away with him!

"Willie had been keen on him going jumping, we're having a debate with what we are going to do with three or four of them, but you'd like to think he'd be in the mix.

"He and Vautour are two different types, but the good thing is Willie Mullins trains the two of them, Rich Ricci owns the two of them, so I won't have to worry about who to pick because they won't run against each other!"

Mullins added: "Vautour (Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner) failed a late fitness test, he wasn't right at the time of declaration so we put Faugheen in instead. Hopefully, Vautour should be fine to run on Friday.

"It was a very good effort running on that ground, considering that he had been running on heavy all winter - particularly when he won at Limerick.

"It was a fair performance to win like that stepping back in trip and I think he might stick to hurdling next season. When we bought him we thought he would be a chaser but after this hurdling could be his forte. We'll see what happens at this meeting, evaluate what else we have in the yard and decide over the summer.

"The only reason he didn't go over two miles over the winter was that we had enough other horses for that distance and he stayed. Now we know he goes on this ground as well."

"This trip is good enough as he is a keen horse who likes to get on with the job."

Sky Bet cut the winner from 16/1 to 6/1 for the 2015 Champion Hurdle, the same price as Vautour.

Regarding the decision as to whether Faugheeen would now go over fences or stay over hurdles, owner Ricci told At The Races: "We'll certainly have to have a think now.

"We'll get some sun on their backs and I'm sure the decision will take care of itself. We've got some good horses to think about. This horse, Vautour, Annie Power and Moyle Park, who I don't think we saw the best of this season."