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Ruby guides Faugheen to impressive win

FAUGHEEN was a hugely impressive winner of the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton to strengthen his grip on the Champion Hurdle market.

Willie Mullins sent the six-year-old over for the Grade One admitting he was surprised at the progress his charge had made in the last 12 months.

Ruby Walsh was happy to track the pace-setting Blue Heron on a track than many thought could be too sharp for him, having won over three miles in heavy ground this time last year.

But Walsh never looked troubled at any stage and turning into the straight he gave his mount an inch of rein and he shot clear.

The 4-11 favourite made a minor blunder at the last but it did not halt his momentum and he crossed the line eight lengths clear of Purple Bay.

Paul Nicholls' Fighting Fifth winner Irving was pulled up.

Winning owner Rich Ricci said: "That was good to watch."

When told he was the even-money favourite for the Champion, he said: "Is he really? There's still Hurricane Fly and Jezki to think about.

"It was a big test today but he was very impressive and we're lucky to have him, he's something else.

"He was very big at Ascot but there's such a difference in his weight this year, he came back in from summer much stronger.

"He's something to look forward to, that's for sure."

Walsh said: "He jumped great barring the last, but the race was over. He does not lack speed or pace.

"He won at Punchestown and people forget that is a fast hurdle track, he won a two-mile novice there so the form was there for all to see. He's a very good horse and a pleasure to ride.

"I suppose it was a big decision in October whether it was him or Vautour that stayed hurdling."

Meanwhile, Noel Fehily kept it simple as Silviniaco Conti repeated his win of 12 months ago in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.

Despite being challenged early for the lead by Cue Card and Champagne Fever, last year's winner saw them off after half a mile and barely made a semblance of a mistake, jumping for fun.

The challengers were stacking up behind him at the third-last, with Champagne Fever and Dynaste looking menacing as well as the outsider Johns Spirit.

However, another big leap gained him an unassailable advantage and the 15-8 favourite pulled four and a half lengths clear of Dynaste. Al Ferof stayed on for third to give trainer Paul Nicholls and one-three.