Walsh cool on Faugheen’s Champion odds

Ruby Walsh feels the bookmakers may have overreacted in cutting Faugheen’s Champion Hurdle odds following Saturday’s Ascot win.

Walsh was nearly motionless in the saddle as Willie Mullins’ unbeaten star got his season off to a perfect start in the Coral Hurdle, but the jockey feels it was only what several other top quality hurdlers would have done.

Stiffer tasks await Faugheen as the season progresses and although Walsh is of the belief his mount could be well up to mixing it with the best later in the campaign, he still has a bit to prove as yet.

“He has plenty of speed for an ex-point-to-point and bumper horse but he’s not coming off the Flat, he’s not a Listed, 100-rated Flat horse, he’s got a National Hunt background all the way so for a horse of that type he has plenty of speed,” Walsh told Racing UK.

“He jumps better when he’s going quicker, we can get him more accurate but he’s going in the right direction.

“Do I think he should be 2-1 favourite for the Champion Hurdle? No. I don’t think he did anything at Ascot that The New One, Hurricane Fly or Jezki couldn’t have done. He did exactly what all those would have done in that race.

“From a punters point of view, he’s pretty skimpy odds but potentially he’s a very good horse.

“That was two-miles-three but he dropped back to two miles at Punchestown last season no problem and was very impressive.

“He has to improve a bit but I hope he’ll make up into a Champion Hurdle horse. The next day, wherever he goes will be another step, you have to keep improving through the season and there is a tendency for second-season novices to do that, like Jezki last season.

“There’s no reason to think Faugheen will not do that when more tests are put in front of him.”

Walsh meanwhile hailed Vautour after he made the perfect start to his chasing career at Navan on Sunday.

The Willie Mullins-trained Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner was already prominent in the betting for the Cheltenham novice chases without even jumping a fence in public.

Those odds were made even shorter still as the five-year-old barely put a foot wrong, making every yard of the running before cruising to an eight-length success over Clarcam, who was good enough to be second in a Grade One last season.

Walsh said: “He was natural, very sure of what he was doing. Too much confidence is a bad thing, but I thought he was super. He has plenty of scope, he was very clever and obviously he has a huge amount of ability.

“He gave Clarcam, who’s not a bad horse, 12lb and Clarcam had had a race and he beat him quite soundly I thought.

“He was always a natural over hurdles and you expected him to be as good over a fence and he has been since day one. We’ve never had any issues with him and he’s a pleasure to ride.

“If something wanted to go a good gallop in front I’d have had no problems, but he has a huge stride and wanted to use it – that’s just the way it panned out.

“I stepped it up after the fourth last, he jumped the third last really well and when Clarcam landed behind me, I had to go a bit faster still and that’s where I won the race. He absolutely winged the last.

“I thought it was a really good performance. Obviously his jumping will come under more pressure as he goes up in class, but you have to start somewhere and hopefully there’s something left in the tank to build on.”


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