Monday 16 September 2019

Patrick Mullins: 'Don't be fooled by Faugheen's age, he is still a show-stopper'


Faugheen and Paul Townend on the way to landing last year’s Morgiana Hurdle. Photo: Sportsfile
Faugheen and Paul Townend on the way to landing last year’s Morgiana Hurdle. Photo: Sportsfile

Patrick Mullins

"All the world's a stage…

And one man in his time plays many parts."

'As You Like It', William Shakespeare

Onto the stage and into the spotlight step the Old Champ, the Young Pretender and the Reigning Champion.

The Morgiana tomorrow has the potential to entertain as much as any of the Bard's great plays.

Its characters, and the plot they bring with them, are excitingly intriguing and the outcome will set the narrative for the rest of the season.

Supasundae, technically the champion hurdler in Ireland after his victories in Leopardstown and Punchestown last year, is in his prime at eight years old.

He defeated Faugheen in Leopardstown and Samcro fell when he was victorious in Punchestown.

He has earned his respect in the ring and yet he will be third-choice in the betting.

Victory for him would bring vindication, announcing that he isn't winning through others failings.

Then there is Samcro. Six years old, stepping into the open arena for just the second time. He fell on his first attempt, leaving us none the wiser as to his true ability.

His second defeat at Down Royal raises more questions but that is a perfect race at an imperfect time and has caught out the likes of Apple's Jade and Arctic Fire before, to no harm.

His reputation is backed up by considerable deeds but more is needed now. This is his chance to step up to the pulpit and declare he is, indeed, the next coming.

And so the old champion strides onto the stage too, the applause a little less than before perhaps.

At 10 years old, his frightening best is most likely behind him. Isn't it?

There was a time when Faugheen was invincible and extraordinary. But no more.

This time last year, he hadn't run in 22 months and people wondered would he return the same as before?

He exploded back on the scene with a 16-length demolition and he finished the campaign with a 13-length annihilation of a dual Cheltenham Festival winner in Penhill. But all is not how it was. The aura is gone. What happened?

Three times, the extraordinary looked ordinary and we marvelled bitterly at the realisation that perhaps his reign had passed.

He was like Mancherster United without Alex Ferguson, Top Gear without Jeremy Clarkson, Queen without Freddie Mercury.

Faugheen was in the middle of composing something beautiful and then he got injured. He was defeated repeatedly. Mortality set in. But the play isn't over yet.

Faugheen has played the part of the Young Pretender and the Reigning Champion in his time and emerged victorious. Can he play this role of Old Champ to perfection too?

Watch again the replays of his two victories last year. Imperious, just like before.

He's won three of his last six Grade Ones by double-digit margins. To see him at home, the answer is of course he can. And the stage is set perfectly.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a proper horse race.

Grab your coat and binoculars, buy a hot whiskey or tea and get a front-row seat in Punchestown and watch this chapter of the story live. See these heavyweights before, during and after. This could be a masterpiece. Don't miss it. This weekend, winter is well and truly back.

Patrick's Picks

Cheltenham, today

Royal Illusion (4.0)

Punchestown, tomorrow

Ballycasey (12.05)

Faugheen (2.15)

Mt Leinster (3.55)

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