Faugheen investigation likely to come to nothing

So, the British Horseracing Authority is investigating betting patterns regarding the withdrawal of Willie Mullins’ Faugheen from the Champion Hurdle in March.

Faugheen investigation likely to come to nothing

Mullins broke the news on February 17, that Faugheen would miss the race, just under four weeks prior to the Champion Hurdle being run.

Apparently, Faugheen drifted on the exchanges from 1-2 to odds against, before his withdrawal was announced.

Did some players on the exchanges know, or believe they knew, that Faugheen wasn’t going to run at Cheltenham? Well, of course they did.

It is the natural instinct of many punters, when they think they have an edge, to come out to play. But it takes two to tango and it requires a complete mug to fall for what is effectively the three-card trick.

If the right price for Faugheen was 1-2 and you were being offered say 11-10 or 5-4 then only an idiot wouldn’t smell a rat.

The Faugheen story reminds us of the tale of Tom Taaffe’s Kicking King when he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2005.

A couple of weeks before the Gold Cup it was announced that the well fancied Kicking King would miss the race.

A small number of punters, it seems, knew that was going to be the case and had been laying the horse in the expectation their information would prove accurate.

When Kicking King was duly declared to have a problem, thus missing Cheltenham, they thought they were sitting pretty.

But horror of horrors, at least for them, Kicking King was subsequently reinstated and proceeded to win the Gold Cup.

We are not talking about hundreds of euro here, but a lot more and this week the figure I heard was that one of the punters lost in the region of €20,000.

We don’t know the money involved with Faugheen, but do know that those who laid him have not been paid.

The Racing Post told us this week that “a possible source of the leaked information (regarding Faugheen) has been established.’’ The use of the word possible tells us that the source actually has not been established.

The investigation has, seemingly, been going on for many months and the BHA is being assisted by the Turf Club. Now why doesn’t that fill me with confidence?

In any case, I suspect the whole thing amounts to little more than a ball of smoke, but surely it is time for the BHA to piddle or get off the pot.

Reveal to the public what you have found out, or tell them the matter is closed, little or nothing to see here. I’m sure Willie Mullins would like closure to something that essentially has nothing at all to do with him.

THE news on Wednesday morning that Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud is to remove some 60 horses from Willie Mullins came as a real bombshell.

A failure to agree on fees, we are told, was the reason and, with two juggernauts clashing, one of them had to blink for the partnership to survive. There was, however, to be no blinking and so a parting of the ways was inevitable.

Even for a powerful yard such as Mullins’, trying to replace that many horses is some task and clearly has ramifications.

Unless Mullins manages to fill the now empty boxes reasonably quickly then, you’d imagine, redundancies are at least a possibility.

For five other trainers the upside, of course, is they will be smacking their lips in delight at the unexpected goodies that have come their way.

It is particularly sad for the admirable Mullins that it has come to this, but if anyone can make relatively light of such a huge setback then it is him.

The other factor to be considered is so many top-class horses being removed from Mullins ensures the National Hunt campaign is likely to be far more competitive than it promised to be.

That is the consequence of having 60 horses, who were originally on your team, now batting for someone else.

Certainly, having a Gigginstown-owned horse, formerly trained by Mullins, taking on one currently in Mullins’ care, is set to add spice to many a dull winter’s day!

AT Fairyhouse on Tuesday, Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon made his handicap debut on the flat, on the back of landing a conditions event at Listowel.

The handicapper gave him a rating of 92 and clearly plenty felt that was very fair and this more than useful staying hurdler went off the 15-8 favourite to beat ten rivals.

Snow Falcon, however, failed to pick up in the straight and eventually finished a well beaten fourth behind Roconga.

It reminded you that it is desperately difficult to know whether a horse is on a favourable mark or not when having a first outing in a handicap.

All the handicapper can do is make an educated guess and, until after that initial outing, cannot be in any way confident about his work.

I thought about this the other day, reflecting on a Galway festival a number of years ago. When tipping horses for the Examiner, I would rarely nap in a handicap, but did fancy this one - it was over fences - having its first run in such a contest.

I duly wrote the copy, but just before sending it to the office went looking for the trainer to confirm my thinking.

Ran into him and said I felt his was “tossed in’’ tomorrow. He agreed, but offered that you can never be sure until they have run in a handicap and he would only school around.

Queue an elegant swivel away from the trainer and a rapid re-writing of the copy. And that’s exactly what the horse did the next day, he enjoyed a lovely school.

ALICE Springs today at Newmarket and Found, each-way, in the Arc at Chantilly tomorrow means it is going to be a big weekend for us!

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