Jessica Harrington: Faugheen main threat to Jezki retaining crown

Although her stable star has lost to old foe Hurricane Fly three times this season, Jessica Harrington maintains that it is the Closutton legend’s stablemate, Faugheen that represents the biggest threat to Jezki retaining his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham next month.

Jessica Harrington: Faugheen main threat to Jezki retaining crown

Harrington reported Jezki to be in fine shape entering what has always been his favourite phase of a season and remains optimistic that the JP Manus-owned gelding can repeat last year’s glory.

He followed that Cheltenham success up with a resounding victory over Hurricane Fly at Punchestown.

The seven-year-old has had to yield to the world record holder three times so far this term but drying ground and going left-handed around a track in which he has excellent form (fourth in the Champion Bumper and third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle prior to winning the Champion Hurdle) can be significant.

It is last season’s Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle victor that presents the stiffest challenge according to the trainer, however.

“I have no hesitation in saying Faugheen is the biggest danger,” said Harrington at a press gathering at her Commonstown Racing Stables in Moone yesterday.

“He’s beaten what’s been served up to him in England and I just think he’s the unknown quantity.

“We still have Hurricane Fly, and I know Willie still loves Hurricane Fly to death, but Faugheen is the unknown quantity.

“Jezki came out of Leopardstown well and he is going to work on Friday morning on the grass. We’re on schedule at the moment and, touching all wood, everything is going according to plan.”

Although now 11 and giving away four years to both Jezki and the unbeaten Faugheen, Harrington would not consider herself shocked if Hurricane Fly garnered a third Champion Hurdle.

“I must say when he appeared in the Morgiana I thought he looked as fit as a flea and ready to go. Willie has said that he’s had him in a better place this year than he has had him probably ever. It would be no surprise to me if he did go and win another Champion Hurdle. It would be a great feat of training.

“Faugheen is the young horse coming up and you always fear the younger ones rather than the older ones. You don’t know how good they are, and what we’ve seen him do has been very good. You could argue he hasn’t beaten anything, but he could only do it as well as he could.”

Meanwhile, Harrington poured cold water on any suggestion of talking to connections about having last year’s victorious jockey, Barry Geraghty return to the plate instead of the soon-to-be-retired AP McCoy, who is McManus’ retained jockey.

Geraghty was on board at Cheltenham 11 months ago as Jezki just held off the other McManus-owned participant, My Tent Or Yours. McCoy elected to ride the latter on that occasion but will be on Jezki on March 10.

“It’s never come up and I wouldn’t even ask the question,” scoffed Harrington. “AP is JP’s jockey and he has first choice of what he wants to ride.

“If the horse is good enough, it doesn’t matter who the jockey is. The horse has got to be good enough on the day.”

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