Tuesday 21 January 2020

Rich Ricci reveals Champion Hurdle dreams for Annie Power and Faugheen

Owner Rich Ricci is happy to let Annie Power and Faugheen be campaigned with next year's Champion Hurdle in mind.

Faugheen was a brilliant winner of the two-mile showpiece at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, but was unable to defend his crown in March after suffering injury following his scintillating display in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in January.

In his absence, Annie Power was supplemented for the Champion Hurdle and ran out an all-the-way winner before following up at Aintree.

The Willie Mullins-trained pair are likely to be kept apart in the short term, with the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown and the Hatton's Grace at Fairyhouse identified as possible starting points.

Ricci said: "Annie Power has summered remarkably well and everyone is delighted with her.

"Can she win the Champion Hurdle again? We think she can, but we have Faugheen, too, and, of course, they will need injury-free seasons.

"Annie in particular is fragile. We have tried to get her to the Hatton's Grace the last two seasons and twice she went wrong.

"I suspect we will train her and Faugheen along the same lines we intended to last year and if they are both fit and well in March we will have a decision to make.

"Hopefully she will be ready for the Morgiana or the Hatton's Grace to start her season off, with Faugheen going to the one of those that she doesn't."

The leading owner is also keen to see Faugheen bid for a hat-trick of wins in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day.

"He suffered a suspensory ligament injury which, whilst small, was obviously enough to halt any plans for defending the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and we decided then to let him off for the season," Ricci continued.

"He's back in and riding out every day so we are all very happy with him right now.

"If he keeps that way, which he should, Willie's record of returning horses from similar issues is fantastic and it will be all systems go very soon.

"Hopefully he will make the Morgiana or the Hatton's Grace as his season opener. I'd imagine it will then be Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle which he has won for the past two years and then the Champion Hurdle.

"Whether we will run him between Christmas and Cheltenham after what happened last year I don't know, we hadn't done that before.

"Like with Annie we will just try and get them fit then keep them sound through the season.

"Horses have a way of making your mind up for you."

PA Media

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