Faugheen is Punchestown hero

One of jump racing’s biggest stars, Faugheen, came home to a hero’s reception at Punchestown on Thursday when returning to form in brilliant style in the Grade 1 LADBROKES CHAMPION STAYERS HURDLE. Trainer Willie Mullins’ nephew David was aboard the 10-year-old and put in a bold front-running performance to come home 13 lengths clear of stablemate Penhill. He was returned at 11/2.
The winning trainer admitted he didn’t go into today’s race with great confidence. “He showed he still has it. But Ruby and I watched him work the other morning and we just looked at each other, I don’t know how slow he came up but this was really last-chance saloon today,” said Mullins. “If he’d finished down the field then that would probably have been it. But you always run them and hope that the good weather and things would help. He likes this track and they were going a different gear than over two miles, the gallop he is used to. I thought he had got a nice, soft lead and they would have to race to get to him. David said he loved it, absolutely loved it. He enjoyed it today and we have talked about sending him chasing next season. Three-mile hurdling is very hard on them and he’s obviously not enjoying two miles. I think Rich (Ricci) really enjoyed that so it’s good to finish like that as it’s not been the greatest year for him.”
David Mullins added: “That was special. I took a look at the screen twice on the way around and I was further ahead the second time I looked than the first. I felt like I was doing a canter all the way – you could say he’s back to his best. He’s done everything right. You could say Willie has his horses in tip-top condition.”
Owner Rich Ricci said: ”I am emotional, as you would expect from me, but absolutely delighted. It has been a tough old season for Faugheen and for us. It is nice to have a change of luck and he seemed to love it today. Willie had called in the week and said ‘he is not working very well, I want to run him in three miler rather than two miler.’ I said that is fine as I did not want him to disgrace himself.
“I was thinking about what we do with him [in the future]. Maybe let him summer and then novice chasing next season, and then all of a sudden he comes out today and does that. It is a credit to Willie – he is amazing – and everybody in the yard. John Codd deserves a lot of credit. He has been with that horse all year and never lost faith. He nursed him back from his injuries. It’s brilliant. Cheltenham may have been disappointing but this makes up for it. The reception he got here was brilliant. It is just a magic day.
“David owed me that for beating us here on Nichols Canyon! I am delighted for David. I asked him before the race what is he going to do and he said he would make it. I said ‘gosh, really?’ but he said ‘yeah yeah, he likes bowling along in front and I will ride him like he is the best horse in the race.’ He did and fair play to him, it was a cracking ride. Fair play to Ruby because after Cheltenham he said he needs to go up to three miles. He felt he still has the enthusiasm but is not as quick as he was. Ruby said if it was up to him he would have been three miles all year. We always forget that he won that three-mile novices’ hurdle at Limerick all those years ago. I don’t know what we will do with him. If that’s it, then fantastic, but I hope that is not it.”
A fabulous finish to the FRIENDS FIRST CROSS COUNTRY CHASE FOR THE LA TOUCHE CUP saw the Enda Bolger-trained Auvergnat (11/4) get up in a photo from stablemate Josies Orders (Nina Carberry, 5/2 Fav).
“Auvergnat was probably the one we fancied most because of his good run at Cheltenham,” said Bolger, who saddled four runners and was winning the race for a 14th time.
“He’s eight, so he’s a young horse and he’s and up and coming horse at this game. Hopefully he’ll be back here for a few more years. It was great for the race to see a finish like that.”
Jockey Donal McInerney added: ”That was unbelievable. I have watched this race since I was 12 and thank God I got it done today. Auvergnat and I get on fairly well now, thank goodness. I thought Nina (Carberry on Josies Orders) had done me on the line but thankfully he held on.
“I got on top of the lads in front of me [after the horse fell] and I was able to bring him back and keep filling him up. When I straightened up for the last, I knew I had loads of horse so I stood up and gave him a chance. He winged the last and I sent him on, but he lugged a little bit left up the run in. I thought your man was going to get back to me but he didn’t. I have been Enda since I was 15. I know nothing when I started and he has taught me a lot. He is a very patient man and will teach you a lot if you listen.”
After Willie Mullins’ six winners on Wednesday, Gordon Elliott got a much-needed success of his own when Park Paddocks justified 6/1 favouritism in the opening JLT HANDICAP HURDLE with Jack Kennedy in the saddle. “We had a rough day yesterday but that just shows you the man Willie is. It is a game of ups and downs, and we are on the back-foot now,” said Elliott.
“We will enjoy the rest of the week and if we can pull another winner or two out of it, I’ll keep smiling. I just wanted to lay down and cry yesterday. Willie is an amazing man and to be in this battle with him is brilliant. We just have to take it on the chin, but yesterday was hard.
“There are still three days to go but I would say we are going to struggle now, to be honest, although we knew all week that Friday and Saturday were going to be our best days. We need a miracle!
“Jack gave Park Paddocks a good ride and he jumped well. We’ll probably rock on chasing over the summer and use his four-year-old allowance.”
Kennedy added: ”That was badly wanted. Park Paddocks done it well. He jumped and travelled great, and kept going.
“He has improved an awful lot. I am not sure how much improvement there is left in him but he is definitely after improving from his first couple of runs.”
It only took Mullins until the second race to first get on the scoresheet for the day when Cadmium (12/1) ran out an eight-length winner of the PIGSBACK.COM HANDICAP CHASE. Mullins’ nephew Danny was riding.
“Danny got a fantastic tune out of the horse, who has obviously learned a bit. He was very good today and will probably keep going at this job on good ground. He could do all the Festivals,” said the successful trainer.
Danny Mullins added: “It has been a great season. I missed a bit of time with injury and the boys have been doing a fantastic job – David and Paul have had a great time. I am delighted to get back on the big stage with one as well. This is where it counts.
“Cadmium travelled so well. Riding for Willie is great because he just said to line him up, keep him jumping and hang on to a little bit. It makes life easier riding those horses of Willie’s around here. We can hopefully keep the winners coming for the championship.”
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