Ricci: Fantastic Faugheen will improve


Owner Rich Ricci is confident that Faugheen will improve from his reappearance run at Punchestown, with Kempton at Christmas likely to be his next stop.

The 2015 Champion Hurdle hero was returning from 665 days off the track when he took the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle at the Co Kildare track this month.

‘The Machine’ defied worries over his fitness as he made most of the running before coming clear by 16-lengths to win from another former two-mile kingpin in Jezki.

Faugheen is now the 11/8 favourite to regain the Champion Hurdle crown he never got to defend come March.

According to Ricci, trainer Willie Mullins may opt to go a familiar path in getting to Cheltenham, which would mean Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle – which Faugheen won in 2014 and 2015 – before heading to Leopardstown in February for the Irish Champion Hurdle en route to the Cotswolds.

“We hadn’t run for 660-odd days and I thought he looked big – not as big as he normally does for his first run of the year, but he looked like he’ll come on for the run. It was a fantastic performance.” Ricci told At The Races.

“He’s absolutely grand and if he is back we ought to make hay while the sun shines. Willie is a bit of a creature of habit and he’s won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton twice. That new weekend [Dublin Racing Festival in February] would be spectacular and we’d like to support it.

“Without committing to anything, I imagine that on the menu would be either of the Christmas Hurdles, the Irish Champion Hurdle and then Cheltenham.”

Faugheen has been beaten only once in his 14 career starts and the nine-year-old has won twice at the Cheltenham Festival.

Come March, he would bid to become the first ten-year-old Champion Hurdler since Sea Pigeon won in the hands of Jonjo O’Neill in 1980.

Last season’s Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’air is set to reappear in the Fighting Fight Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday. Nicky Henderson’s charge is 3/10 to win that race and 7/2 to retain his Cheltenham crown.

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