Faugheen destroys Neptune rivals to maintain unbeaten record

Owner Rich Ricci was full of praise for jockey Ruby Walsh and trainer Willie Mullins after Faugheen romped to a four and a half length victory in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham this afternoon.

The six-year-old was always travelling sweetly under Walsh and turned for home on the bridle having flattened the third-last hurdle which briefly halted his momentum. He had all of his rivals in trouble as the field turned for home and when Walsh asked him for his effort, he fairly scampered away from his rivals to justify 6/4 favouritism.

“Gosh, that was magic wasn’t it?” said Ricci.

“He was just brilliant. He’s been a very hard horse to keep right but Willie and Ruby have done a fantastic job with him. He’s not the biggest and he’s had a lot of niggles throughout the season. Most of his health issues have been with his back. We’ve had to be careful with him but Willie has been fantastic with the way he’s wound him up and then let him down again.

“The leap at the last was brilliant wasn’t it? His jumping was always going to be a bit of a concern and I thought his mistake three out could have cost him. I don’t always watch them jumping the last and I didn’t again here. Maybe I should start watching them though as he was amazing at the last. Willie is just magic isn’t he?”

Ricci told Clare Balding on Channel 4 Racing that it was her who got him interested in jump racing.

“It’s great, it’s magic,” explained the owner. “I was watching you (Clare) on television way back in 2005 and, always a fan of the Flat game, I thought you were so passionate about jumps. I said “oh, this must be interesting” and went to Sandown and stood next to a few of those things and it got me hooked. My wife would say you were to blame.”

Asked how he watched races, he replied: “This is going to sound silly bit it’s true. I usually have my back to the races and have a friend of mine, Joe, who tells me what is going on. Then I tend to watch over the last if I can bear it. I hardly saw a race yesterday. It is a silly thing – I don’t know what it is but I am terrified. But it is wonderful, exciting and it is just great to have some luck. People are great.”

Walsh was quick to praise Faugheen’s lad after the race.

“I came into work six months ago and I was talking to the guy who looks after him,” said Walsh.

“I said that there were a good bunch of novices in the barn and asked him what he thought. He said that Faugheen is the reason he comes into work every morning. I thought that was a fair statement but he was right.

“He jumped super to the third last, then he had enough at the second last and missed it, so I kept the revs up going to the last and he jumped it well. Willie said all along that he had a lot under the bonnet and, when you ask for it, it will be there and he was right. It was a smashing performance.

“It’s difficult to compare him to Vautour (winner of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday) as they are completely different horses. He should make some chaser in time. I’m sure we won’t rush to make any plans though.”

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