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Red Mills absence latest evidence in the case against Faugheen

| 12.02.2015

Willie Mullins’ Faugheen will have to overturn a major trend to win the Champion Hurdle after it was revealed he will swerve the Red Mills Hurdle this weekend.

The Grade 2, Gowran Park shindig had been pencilled in for the Rich Ricci-owned gelding’s final race before attempting to justify even money favouritism for the Cheltenham Festival’s 2m hurdles showpiece.

However, after consultations with stable jockey Ruby Walsh, Mullins has decided to send the seven-year-old straight to the big one.

It’s a bold move in any circumstances, but one that seems all the bolder given just one Champion Hurdle winner since 1993 has done so without a prior run in the calendar year, Hurricane Fly’s 2012 conqueror Rock On Ruby.

Coupled with more general misgivings about the levels of form Faugheen has shown over 2m in relation to his price, it’s enough to consider him well worth taking on.

Last term he announced himself as a serious prospect for the 2m championship races with victory in the Grade 1 novice event at the Punchestown Festival.

Yet his closest pursuer that day was stablemate Valseur Lido, who is expected to run in either the 2m4f JLT Novice Chase or the 3m RSA Novice Chase at Cheltenham.

Although well within his rights to be below his best in his seasonal pipe-opener at Ascot, the fact that the next two home to run since both finished 50l-plus behind Rock On Ruby over 2m4f in their next outings should ring alarm bells.

Next up, over Christmas he beat a puny field made all the more average by Irving, supposedly his most serious rival, pulling up at Kempton.

Purple Bay, the horse that chased him home just 8l in arrears had been awarded an unfairly inflated mark of 161 for winning Wincanton’s Kingwell Hurdle when handed victory by the unfortunate Irving’s final fence fall.

Compare that to the level at which Jezki, Hurricane Fly, and Arctic Fire have been competing over their last three races and it doesn’t hold water.

At 6/1, 7/1 and 16/1 for the Tuesday feature respectively, each has proven themselves up to competing against genuine Champion Hurdle horses on multiple occasions.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Thomas Reynolds