Monday 23 October 2017

Jessica Harrington: Faugheen is Jezki's biggest threat in the Champion Hurdle

Trainer Jessica Harrington has confidence in Jezki
Trainer Jessica Harrington has confidence in Jezki

Ashley Iveson

Jessica Harrington rates Willie Mullins' young pretender Faugheen as the biggest threat to Jezki retaining his crown in the Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month.

Jezki enjoyed his finest hour at the Festival last year and followed up with victory over Hurricane Fly at Punchestown later that spring.

However, his old adversary has got the better of Jezki in three meetings so far this season and he, too, will represent Mullins in the Champion again.

But it is the unbeaten seven-year-old Faugheen who is hot favourite to take the title away from Jezki.

"I have no hesitation in saying Faugheen is the biggest danger," she said at a press day at her County Kildare stables.

"He's beaten what's been served up to him in England and I just think he's the unknown quantity.

"We still have Hurricane Fly, and I know Willie still loves Hurricane Fly to death, but Faugheen is the unknown quantity.

"Jezki came out of Leopardstown well and he is going to work on Friday morning on the grass.

"We're on schedule at the moment and, touching all wood, everything is going according to plan."

Jezki was guided to last year's Champion Hurdle triumph by Barry Geraghty, with Tony McCoy siding with the narrow runner-up My Tent Or Yours for retaining owner JP McManus.

Geraghty is five from five on the seven-year-old, while McCoy has steered him to just three victories from seven starts.

But McCoy will almost certainly be on board at Prestbury Park on March 10 and Harrington is perfectly happy with the situation.

Asked whether connections had discussed the possibility of Geraghty getting back on board, the trainer said: "No. It's never come up and I wouldn't even ask the question.

"AP is JP's jockey and he has first choice of what he wants to ride.

"If the horse is good enough, it doesn't matter who the jockey is. The horse has got to be good enough on the day."

Harrington admitted being amazed by Hurricane Fly this season and believes it would not be the biggest shock in the world if he won a third Champion Hurdle at the age of 11.

"I have been (surprised by Hurricane Fly). I must say when he appeared in the Morgiana I thought he looked as fit as a flea and ready to go," she said.

"Willie has said that he's had him in a better place this year than he has had him probably ever.

"It would be no surprise to me if he did go and win another Champion Hurdle. It would be a great feat of training.

"Faugheen is the young horse coming up and you always fear the younger ones rather than the older ones.

"You don't know how good they are, and what we've seen him do has been very good.

"You could argue he hasn't beaten anything, but he could only do it as well as he could."

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