Fantastic Faugheen back to his best in all-the-way Stayers Hurdle triumph

Fantastic Faugheen back to his best in all-the-way Stayers Hurdle triumph
Faugheen, ridden by jockey David Mullins, clears the last on the way to winning the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown Racecourse. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Faugheen returned to his majestic best with an impressive all-the-way win in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown.

The former Champion Hurdle hero, trained by the red-hot Willie Mullins, relished the big step up in trip by blowing away the opposition in incredible fashion.

Faugheen was allowed an easy lead straight from the start and soon had the field well stretched out. David Mullins was able to dictate his own pace and never looked like running out of steam.

The 10-year-old, owned by Rich Ricci, has had his fair share of problems over the last couple of years, but he looked the force of old as he found another gear when pressed by his stablemate Penhill, who lifted the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Faugheen (11-2) put more daylight between himself and the rest up the straight, as he led home a Mullins one-two-three, with Penhill second and Shaneshill third.

Mullins said: "David said he loved it, absolutely loved it. He probably got a lot of things his own way there today and it may not happen again in the future, but he has a fair engine.

"That victory was something else. It just shows the horse has the heart and I don't know where he got that from. Maybe we'll stay three miles or maybe we'll go chasing with him - I don't know.

"It's going to be fun deciding what we are going to do."

He went on: "He worked the other morning and this was going to be a last-chance saloon. Ruby (Walsh) was with me on the gallops and we looked at each other and said that's him gone.

"You always take a chance and run, and just hope on the day maybe good weather and a nice bit of grass underneath will bring him back to life.

"If he had finished down the field today we probably would have said it was time to retire him, but it didn't happen!"

He added: "He always runs well here. I think the only time he was beaten here was when he let Nichols Canyon have a lead one year. He was just fed up going that two-mile gallop, and when he got things his own way here he started to enjoy it.

"He'd be a right novice chaser, but we'll see what Rich wants to do with him. Three-mile hurdling is very hard on a horse, and do we want to subject him to that on heavy ground?

"I'd rather go novice chasing, as it might be a lot easier."

Ricci said: "I'm absolutely delighted. It's been a tough old season for him and for us. It's just nice to get a change of luck. He seemed to love it today.

"I didn't want him to disgrace himself and I was wondering what to do with him, maybe go novice chasing with him next season.

"All of a sudden he's done that today and it's magic.

"It's credit to Willie as well. He's amazing, as is everyone in the yard.

"While Cheltenham may have been disappointing, this makes up for it. This is fantastic and the reception he got here was brilliant. It's a magic day."

On what may happen in the future, he said: "We forget he won a three-mile novice hurdle in Limerick all those years ago. It's just magic. I don't know what we'll do with him now. We'll see how he summers.

"If that's it, fantastic, but I hope it isn't."

- PA

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