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Friday 26th January 2018
   
Faugheen Puzzle Adds Intrigue to Champion Hurdle

It wasn’t the best end to 2017 for Irish trainer Willie Mullins. There was the tragic news of the death of Stayers’ Hurdle winner Nichols Canyon. He also learned that Douvan would once again face a long injury lay-off, missing Cheltenham as a consequence. And then, there was that strange performance by Faugheen at Leopardstown in late December.

It is the latter that will have Mullins most puzzled. Faugheen did look impressive in making a winning return in November, albeit he faced relatively poor opposition in a small field. The race at Leopardstown was a different matter. Faugheen went off as 2/11 favourite, but it became clear early-on that he was not himself. Eventually, jockey Paul Townend pulled Faugheen up and the race was won by 14-1 shot Mick Jazz.

Faugheen
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Buveur D’Air Installed as Odds-On Favourite

The good news for Mullins is that Faugheen does not seem to be lame. Townend pulled him up as a precaution, rather than a sense there was any injury. However, it did have a huge impact on the 2018 Champion Hurdle odds. Last year’s winner Buveur D’air has been installed as the odds-on favourite with Paddy Power at 4/7. Faugheen can be found at a tempting 11/4. The table below shows the current odds from Paddy Power for the main contenders. If you are betting on the Champion Hurdle, or any other race, check out the best free bets for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival before you bet.

Horse: 

Odds:

Age:

Trainer:

Probable Jockey:

Buveur D’air

4/7

6

Nicky Henderson

Barry Geraghty

Faugheen

11/4

9

Willie Mullins

Ruby Walsh

Yorkhill

4/1

7

Willie Mullins

Paul Townend

Melon

6/1

5

Willie Mullins

David Mullins

Defi Du Seuil

10/1

4

Phillip Hobbs

Richard Johnson

My Tent or Yours

12/1

10

Nicky Henderson

Aiden Coleman

Apple’s Jade*

12/1

5

Gordon Elliott

Bryan Cooper

*At this stage, not all horses are guaranteed to enter the Champions Hurdle. Apple’s Jade, for example, is widely expected to run in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.

Faugheen
© Caroline Norris

Faugheen Can Still Be All-Time Great

For all the talk of Faugheen’s demise, his record is still incredible. In 15 races, he has a record of 13 wins, one 2nd place and that PU in December. However, Buveur D’air’s 10 wins from 13 races isn’t too shabby either. The consensus is that a fully fit and firing Faugheen is the better horse, but the question for punters remains – how fit is Faugheen?

That question would be more readily answered if we could see him run before the Champion Hurdle, but that is not guaranteed to happen. There is a chance he may enter the Irish Champion Hurdle in early February, but Mullins may think that comes too soon. If he does enter, and win, at Leopardstown those odds of 11/4 will look massive.

Plenty of punters will be still smashing into Faugheen regardless. The Cheltenham crowds love to see star horses making a comeback. Indeed, horses like Sprinter Sacre have demonstrated that the greatest can still create magic after long injury lay-offs. If Faugheen can rediscover his old form, we are sure to hear that famous Cheltenham Roar louder than ever before.