Few horses have been mentioned as often as Faugheen over the past 18 months. What makes that incredible is that we haven’t seen him on a racecourse since January 2016, when he bolted up in the Irish Champion Hurdle. We thought he would defend that crown, but was pulled out of the 2017 renewal and since then speculation has been rife as to whether we would see him again.
However, as we approach the start of the 2017/18 jump season, the vibes from the Willie Mullins camp in Closutton are very good. The Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown has been set out as an early season target and so far, things appear to be going very well.
The two most important men in Closutton, trainer Willie Mullins and stable jockey Ruby Walsh are both very pleased with the progress Faugheen is making. Although many fans will be wary of the progress until they see Faugheen back on the course, many are already excited at the prospect of seeing the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner back on the track.
Faugheen has always looked special, which is why so many are eager to see him return. He has won 12 of his 13 races under rules, with his only defeat coming in The Morgiana on his 2015 seasonal reappearance. Aside from that defeat he has won both times he has turned up at the Cheltenham Festival, winning the Neptune Novice Hurdle over 2M5F as a novice, before winning the 2M Champion Hurdle the year after.
Not many horses have the stamina to win over three miles, as well as the natural speed and jumping ability to win over two miles, which goes to show what a truly incredible animal Faugheen really is. Had he remained fit and won another couple of Champion Hurdle’s, he would surely be spoken about alongside some of the greats of the game.
With plenty of live Champion Hurdle contenders at this stage, winning one is not going to be easy, especially for a horse who as of now hasn’t been seen on a racecourse for the best part of two years. However, it is stories like this one that makes National Hunt racing so special. We love our heroes and treasure those that run their hearts out for us.
Faugheen has been a highly unlucky horse with injuries, but one that has already given us so many great memories. Coming back to racing would be a memory itself, but coming back to win at the Cheltenham Festival would be a special moment and one that the racing world would cherish for a very long time.
For now, we have to put our faith in the team at Closutton to nurture this special animal back to full fitness. It is going to be great to see Faugheen back on the track, and seeing him win any race during his comeback season would be fantastic for the sport. However, of course, all eyes will be on the big prize in March, can Faugheen really come back and lift the Champion Hurdle crown once again?