Faugheen outstanding at Punchestown

FAUGHEEN OUTSTANDING

Faugheen (1/6 Fav) maintained his unbeaten record with a fabulous display in the Grade 1 Queally Group Celebrating 35 Years In Naas Punchestown Champion Hurdle when holding off stablemate Arctic Fire (5/1) to score by eight lengths.

“Ruby (Walsh) didn’t hang around and the quicker they go, the better he jumps,” said trainer Willie Mullins, enjoying his 12th success of the Festival, while Faugheen has now won 10 races. “It’s extraordinary to see a former point-to-pointer doing that over two miles.

“Ruby jumped off and right from the start he was applying the pressure. He kicked on at the stone wall, again at the second last and then again at the final hurdle. There were no tactics. Artic Fire was never on the bridle at any stage and you know they must have been going at some pace for that to happen. He had put Paul (Townend on Arctic Fire) under pressure very early. That was an amazing performance.

“It was very gutsy from Ruby. He was afraid of Arctic Fire’s speed and he kept piling it on from the front, making sure he was drawing his fire from a long way out.

“I wondered if he had gone too far out over at the stone wall, but Ruby knew what he had underneath him. He just put Paul under pressure very early on and Paul could not use the speed Arctic Fire has.

“Faugheen has done it in year one and now we will have to see. You look at some horses like Our Conor, he looked invincible when he won the Triumph Hurdle but fate can go against you.

“I believe in Faugheen but he has to do it and stand the test of time. That is probably what we need to see now. He was very, very good today. He kept answering Ruby’s questions and every time he came up to a hurdle, he was standing back at them like a real professional hurdler.”

Ruby Walsh added: “As Paul Townend pulled up there, he was making the sound of a jet and that is what Faugheen is. He is incredible. Arctic Fire is a very, very good yardstick and a very good horse, but this fella had his ears pricked half way after the last. He is just an aeroplane.

“He is a pleasure to ride. I went a quicker gallop today than I did in Cheltenham and he jumped better. You can’t compare horses from different generations. When I was riding Kauto Star, people used to always talk about Arkle but you can only compare them to which generation they’re in. Hurricane Fly in his heyday was a brilliant racehorse – a machine – and this fella [Faugheen] is the same in his era, just as Istabraq was. Handicappers try to compare them, but you can’t.

“Very good horses are uncomplicated and that’s what he is. He’s not the biggest but he’s brilliant. He has everything – he has speed, stamina and goes on any ground and over any trip. He’s just a cracking horse”

Paul Townend said of runner-up Arctic Fire: “It was an unbelievable performance from Faugheen. I was probably in trouble leaving the back straight.

“I have run my race but the winner is an extremely good horse. The way he has left me turning in was exceptional. Ruby was bossing the race everywhere – you can do that when you are on the best horse.”

Willie Mullins was also on the mark when Blood Cotil (11/1) held off Irish Cavalier to land the Grade A EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase under Paul Townend.

“It’s amazing the difference a nice bit of ground makes to this horse and he’s one that will keep going over the summer. He looks tailor-made for the Galway Plate, there doesn’t seem much to go for between now and then,” said Mullins, who played down his amazing season.
“I’ve been lucky enough to keep the horses sound and healthy all season and after that it’s just a matter of running them.”

Co Meath handler Gavin Cromwell, a farrier whose clients include trainer Gordon Elliott, was delighted when bottom-weight Mallards In Flight (8/1) captured the Hanlon Concrete EBF Glencarraig Lady Mares Handicap Chase under Luke Dempsey. “She’s as genuine as they come and today was the big day with her,” said Cromwell.

The opening KFM Hunters’ Chase for the Bishopscourt Cup saw the Kennelly family’s colours – made famous by Bregawn – carried to victory about the Denis Cullen-trained Shin A Vee (9/1).

“He’s been trained for the one day, this is his Gold Cup,” said Cullen. “He won the race in 2009 and was second in 2010 and last year. The ground drying out came good for him today. I expect he’ll go back to Martin (Kennelly)’s now and then try for this again next year.

Owner Martin Kennelly added: “Denis Cullen is a fair good trainer now. He is the best. He has only had Shin A Vee back a couple of months but he is a tough horse and easy to get fit. The whole family are tough and it is very special to win.”

CROWD

Today’s crowd came to 28,398 compared to 26,282 on the Friday in 2014.

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