Faugheen lays down impressive Cheltenham marker at Ascot

Unbeaten Irish hurdler Faugheen put in yet another flawless performance on his seasonal debut at Ascot.

Jockey Ruby Walsh declared mission accomplished after he rode the six-year-old to a three and three quarter length victory in The Coral Hurdle.

It was a performance that showcased how he has matured since April and proved that he absolutely deserves to be favourite for next year’s Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

After his win Paddy Power are pricing Faugheen at 9/4 for the Champion Hurdle while second favourite, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ The New One, is now priced at 7/2 after he won at Haydock.

Faugheen’s win rounded off a triple for jockey Walsh, who won the first race for trainer Harry Fry’s Fletchers Flyers and promising grey Al Ferof for Paul Nicholls.

Even with such rich cards at both Ascot and Haydock over the weekend it was obvious that Faugheen and The New One were in a class of their own.

Sam Twiston-Davies rode a beautiful race on The New One with his mount barely breaking a sweat and feeling very little pressure in the brand new Betfair Price Rush Hurdle at Haydock.

Meanwhile at Ascot Faugheen saw much more of a challenge thrown his way. His owner Rich Ricci described his opponents as “no mugs” and they certainly put up a bit of a fight, namely Blue Fashion and Lac Fontana who dogged his heels up until the last fence.

However, as his rivals were pushed to the limit to keep up with him, Faugheen took the lead from the start and never came off the bridle as he cruised over the hurdles and accelerated away from his competition as the track opened out on to the flat.

His victory made it a back to back win for his trainer Willie Mullins and his owners Mr and Mrs Ricci who won the race last year with super-mare Annie Power. The owner-trainer combination also mopped up the big chase at Gowran Park with old hand Ballycasey.

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