Things We Learned » Great to have Faugheen back

Great to have Faugheen back

You couldn’t have hoped for anything more than you got from Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday. 

It is always with a degree of trepidation that you watch as these National Hunt heroes return.  They never come back, they say.  Well, this one has.

In the back of your mind was the fact that Willie Mullins and Patrick Mullins and Ruby Walsh had always said that they were just little things that were keeping the 2015 Champion Hurdler off the track.  That he would be close to returning and then that something small would go wrong, which would set him back.  Indeed, Ruby Walsh told Racing UK last Tuesday that he would have been ready to go last June.  The problem with last June was that, unless you wanted to go to France – which obviously you didn’t – there was no race for him.

You have to feel for Ruby.  True, he has the whole box of chocolates at his disposal, but Faugheen is the hazelnut whirl.  He had waited from January 2016 to November 2017, that’s 22 months, for Faugheen’s return, and then, wham, the day beforehand the rider breaks his leg.  It’s desperate timing too, at this stage of the season, just as Willie Mullins is tightening the screws and sending out the heavy artillery.  It would have been difficult viewing for Ruby Walsh on Sunday, but you know that he would have been willing Faugheen and Paul Townend on.

Townend kept everything simple, kicked Faugheen out of the gate, allowed him settle into his rhythm and then, once he landed over the second flight, he rolled.  He was a bit guessy at the fourth last flight, and he was a little awkward at the last but, otherwise, Faugheen was smooth as smooth can be. 

Okay, so Jezki is not the force of old, he is a half a stride behind the horse who won the Champion Hurdle in 2014, but he looked good in winning at Tipperary in October.  He may be rated a stone lower than he was in his pomp, but he is still rated 155, and Faugheen beat him pointless.

Campeador is the young improver, and Swamp Fox is a talented horse, the November Handicap winner.  They are both also rated in the mid-150s over hurdles, and Faugheen made them look very ordinary, clocking a fast time in the process. 

He is back in his rightful position, back at the top of the Champion Hurdle market.

Wind operation information useful but not an easy route to punting profit 

The decision by the BHA to make the declaration of wind operations compulsory from 19th January was obviously not reached lightly.  It is not a straightforward issue, not least because wind operations take on different guises.  As trainer Nicky Henderson pointed out on Wednesday, the cauterisation of a soft palate is a fairly routine procedure, while a hobday operation is a major operation.  Yet both will be covered under the letters WS beside a horse’s name.

You can see how that could be unfair to the horses who have just had a small procedure. 

There is also the issue of policing, as Noel Meade mentioned during the week.  How will you legislate for un-declared wind operations?

However, the argument that it will not be a fix-all for punters is a non-argument.  It was never really put forward as a panacea for punters.  It is just another piece of information that punters can have.  Course form, handicap rating, cheekpieces, wind operation.

If it were to prove to be a route to profitability for punters, as in, if horses having their first or second or third run back after a wind operation started to show a healthy level-stakes profit, the market would simply correct itself over the course of a short period of time in a move that would erode that profit. 

There are bigger issues facing punters at present, but this will be a useful piece of information.  It is not an essential, but it is a nice-to-have. 

Good day for Moriviere

Last Sunday was a good day for Bamako Moriviere, and he didn’t need to leave his yard.

Woodland Opera, who finished third behind Willie Mullins’ horse in the Grade 3 novices’ chase at Cork three weeks ago, won the Grade 2 Craddockstown Chase at Punchestown, while Jury Duty, who finished second in that Cork race, went out and landed the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Chase 35 minutes later.

Not only that, but Tombstone, who was beaten by Bamako Moriviere in a beginners’ chase at Fairyhouse last month, finished second behind Woodland Opera in the Craddockstown Chase, beaten just a half a length, the pair of them clear of two talented rivals in Calino D’Airy and Brelade.

Bamako Moriviere was visually impressive in beating Jury Duty and Woodland Opera at Cork.  He jumped well throughout and he came clear from the second last fence to win well in a good time, with his field stretched out behind him.

Susannah Ricci’s horse would have been completing a hat-trick at Cork had he not fallen at the final fence when he had his beginners’ chase in the bag at Listowel in September (notwithstanding the fact that, had he won there, he would not have been eligible for the beginners’ chase that he won at Fairyhouse in October).  He stays two and a half miles well, but he has the pace for two miles and, still only six with just six chases under his belt, he has scope for further progression. 

Good week for Maker

It was also a good weekend for the stallion Saddler Maker. 

It started at Clonmel last Thursday, when Dinaria Des Obeaux won the listed mares’ chase by a distance, and Alpha Des Obeaux won the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase.

Then on Saturday, Apple’s Jade’s sister Apple’s Shakira was seriously impressive in winning the Grade 2 juvenile hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday on her British debut and is now favourite for the Triumph Hurdle.  And this week could get even better for the stallion’s legacy this afternoon when another son, Bristol De Mai, lines up in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase.

It is a shame that the Sadler’s Wells stallion died last year at the age of 18.  Such is the lot of National Hunt stallions, they can find it difficult to make an impact during their lifetime, but Saddler Maker’s progeny are busy ensuring that their sire’s legacy lives on.

Are water jumps really necessary?

You wonder about water jumps in Britain.  There are no water jumps on regulation tracks in Ireland, and some of the water jumps in Britain have been filled in or replaced or just plain deleted in recent years. 

In the first race at Cheltenham on Friday, the amateur riders’ handicap chase, Dueling Banjos made a bad mistake at the water, which probably ended his chance.  The same thing happened on Saturday with Kylemore Lough in the BetVictor Gold Cup.  The two mistakes were almost identical, both horses dropped their hind legs into the water when it looked like they were set to jump the obstacle well.  Both looked bad, and we know that mistakes of this nature can cause serious back injuries.

You can argue that the water jump is a jumping test, like the fences are jumping tests, and that it provides a different type of jumping test, in the same way as an open ditch provides a different type of test to that provided by a plain fence.  But you can also argue that water jumps are unfair, because horses may not be expecting them.  The fact that there is a maximum of one water jump on any regulation track means that, by definition, they present an unexpected challenge.  

It is different on a cross-country course, on which the fences are varied and at which most horses are eagerly looking for the next (different) challenge after they have successfully negotiated the previous one.

And you can understand why Newbury or Aintree might be reluctant to remove their water jumps, given that those obstacles are in front of the stands and that they provide a close-up spectacle of sorts for racegoers.  But the Cheltenham water jump is in the back straight, far away from most racegoers.  You have to wonder about its value-add. 


© The Irish Field, 25th November 2017