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Faugheen tests Champion credentials





Ruby Walsh believes Faugheen will have to improve on what he's shown so far to confirm himself a live Champion Hurdle contender in the William Hill Christmas Hurdle on Friday.

Faugheen takes an unblemished record to Kempton, which included victory in the Neptune Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham and over two miles at the Punchestown Festival. and returned t action with victory at Ascot.

"He won the Grade One novice over two miles at Punchestown last year. I don't see dropping down in trip will be an issue," the jockey told Racing UK.

"You'd think he'd a good bit straighter and improved for his run at Ascot, but he'll have to be.

"Irving was very good in the Fighting Fifth. He has good course-and-distance form around Kempton and Faugheen will have to be a good bit more forward than he was at Ascot to beat Irving. It's his backyard.

"Irving will be a tough nut to crack, but if we have aspirations of Faugheen being a Champion Hurdle horse then in order to beat The New One, Hurricane Fly and Jezki down the line he will have to account for Irving.

"I think his jumping will improve the more experience he gets. I'll be hoping he'll be a bit slicker again at Kempton

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"His schooling at home has been good and his work has been good. We're happy with him and very much looking forward to Friday."

Owner Matt Morgan believes the right decision was made to skip Ascot on Saturday with Sign Of A Victory and instead have a crack at the unbeaten Faugheen.

The Nicky Henderson-trained five-year-old laughed at the handicapper upon his return to action this season, winning a valuable Ascot prize on the bridle from stablemate and subsequent scorer Dawalan.

He had been kept back to run in The Ladbroke at the weekend but connections decided to skip the handicap and go straight for a Grade One once rain turned the ground soft.

Put in as third favourite behind Faugheen and Fighting Fifth winner Irving, Morgan is well aware of the task his charge faces.

He said: "We're just hoping the rain holds off.

"It was the right decision not to run him in the Ladbroke.

"I spoke to Nicky on Saturday evening and Barry (Geraghty) had told him that the ground was dead and tacky, which wouldn't have suited him at all.

"If the rain does hold off all we've got to worry about then is Faugheen!

"It's great for the sport that the Champion Hurdle favourite is coming over, and very good for Kempton.

"Punters want to see these good horses running and I hope we're adding a bit of interest."

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