Christmas Hurdle next for Faugheen

Willie Mullins has pinpointed the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on December 26 as the next likely engagement for Champion Hurdle favourite, Faugheen.

Christmas Hurdle next for Faugheen

A Cheltenham festival winner last March in the Neptune Investments’ Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles, the Rich Ricci-owned ex-point-to-pointer burst into the two-mile picture with a scintillating performance at Punchestown the following month.

The six-year-old confirmed his status with a bloodless win on his reappearance in Ascot just over three weeks ago.

Speaking at the HRI Awards at Leopardstown racecourse yesterday, where he picked up the National Hunt honour for the fifth time in six seasons, Mullins indicated that a lot of improvement could be expected from that eye-catching showing.

“(Jockey) Ruby (Walsh) told me the other day that Dan Skelton, who saddled him up for us, said that in all the horses he had saddled for Paul Nicholls, or for himself since he’s gone training, he had never saddled one with so much condition to do what he did. So there must be a lot of improvement in him.”

Mullins picked Quevega’s sixth consecutive Cheltenham victory and Hurricane Fly’s recent Morgiana Hurdle success as his two highlights for the past year, and plumped for the Gold Cup as the race he would most like to win.

Meanwhile, Horse Racing Ireland chairman, Joe Keeling described the increase in funding from €43m to €54.5m by the government was his highlight as it enabled the organisation to make more long-term plans in a bid to secure the industry’s future.

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney said that the government had always been mindful of racing’s role, not least as an employer, and that it attempted to limit cuts in recent years.

“The funding is almost back to the same now as it was in the height of its boom and that’s an indication of our commitment” said the minister.

He revealed that the Betting Amendment Bill, which will secure greater revenue from the online, remote and exchange platforms, should be completed early next year.

Further legislation surrounding the governance of racing has been through a pre-scrutiny stage and Coveney expects to bring it to the cabinet either next week or early in the New Year.

It was a red-letter day for popular trainer Eddie Lynam, whose success with Sole Power, Slade Power, Anthem Alexander and Agnes Stewart amongst others earned him the Flat award, while Sole Power – who Lynam owns jointly the Sabena and David Power – won the day’s major award for Horse of the Year.

The Dunshaughlin-based trainer described Sole Power as “box office” and predicted a strong showing in the Hong Kong Sprint on Sunday for the multiple Group 1 winner.

Another horse running in Hong Kong is Gordon Lord Byron, and his trainer, Tom Hogan took the Outstanding Achievement honours for overseeing his charge’s remarkable successes, while Jamie Codd was the Point-To-Point victor, having claimed the champion riders’ title for the first time.

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