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Faugheen is now on course to sparkle again at Cheltenham, says Ricci

 

By Gary Carson

Rich Ricci is already bullish about Faugheen attempting to regain his Cheltenham crown after the 2015 Champion Hurdle hero overcame a lengthy absence in style at Punchestown.

The nine-year-old showed little sign of ring-rustiness on his first appearance since winning the Irish Champion Hurdle in January 2016 as he demolished the opposition in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle in a manner that suggested he retains all his old ability.

The Champion Hurdle in March is the ultimate objective for the Willie Mullins-trained gelding, and owner Ricci would like to see Faugheen have two more runs before then, possibly one over Christmas and then in the Irish Champion.

"I was delighted with that. When they come back you are not quite sure. He looked muscular, but a bit big in the ring. It was great to have him back and it was a job really well done," he said. "I don't know where next with Faugheen. We want to get back to Cheltenham. The Irish Champion is a wonderful race. If we had to miss Christmas and go for that it would be fine.

"I've not spoken to Willie about it, but I'd say Christmas would be good and having been off for so long you'd like him to have a couple of more runs before Cheltenham.

"If you saw Faugheen at his best a couple of years ago, he was one of the best champion hurdlers of all time, in my opinion. If he can get close to that, then I think he'd go very close."

Belfast Telegraph

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