Faugheen, with Paul Townend in the saddle, achieved the ninth Grade One success of his career in Ireland last Sunday, bounding home 16 lengths ahead of Jezki. This is a truly spectacular comeback, given that Faugheen had not raced for 665 days, since his victory in the Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2016. The triumph propelled Faugheen to the top of the betting for the Champion Hurdle 2018, with odds 11-4 in his favour.
After a series of injuries it seemed hardly possible that we will get to see another dominant display from the nine-year-old 2014 and 2015 Championship hero. By the time the next Champion Hurdle comes around he will be older than every winner since Sea Pigeon in 1981. It won’t be an easy task, but Faugheen could win the title back after a two-year gap, a feat no horse has ever done before.
Townend, who deputised for the injured Ruby Walsh, gave horse a confident ride, leading from start to finish. Townend couldn’t hide his excitement after the race: “The horse looks as good as ever. He is the real deal,” he said. “I was on the best horse so went out from the start because I didn’t want to complicate it.”
Walsh, Faugheen’s jockey since 2013, suffered a tibia fracture on Saturday. It is still uncertain whether Walsh will recover in time for the Cheltenham Festival, but Dr Adrian McGoldrick, the Irish Turf Club’s chief medical officer said he has “no doubt” in it.
When asked about future plans, trainer Willie Mullins replied: “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.”
Hopefully, we’ll see more of Faugheen’s brilliant performance soon!