Rory Delargy (@helynsar) is back with his latest blog for us and this week he takes a closer look at the Champion Bumper winner, and her future prospects...
Fabulous Fayonagh Looks To Have A Big Future
One of the most remarkable performances of the week at Cheltenham came from Champion Bumper winner Fayonagh, who seemed to lose all chance after being left flat-footed in a poorly effected start. Starting at the rear in a well-run race isn't always a curse, but Fayonagh had made pretty much all the running to win in big fields at Naas and Fairyhouse in the build up to Cheltenham, and she would surely have been sent forward again by Jamie Codd, but she half reared when Bakmaj dived across her as the tapes rose, and briefly looked like she might not start at all.
In the end, she came away in last place, and only had the paddling Fisherman Frank in her wake as the field raced past the half-mile marker, at which point Codd tried to poke up the inside, but soon found his way blocked.
Facing a dead end just as the race was developing in earnest appeared to be the final nail in the coffin, but switched to the wide outside off the final bend, she began to devour ground, and although Danny Mullins had kicked the strong-travelling Debuchet into a seemingly decisive lead, the daughter of Kalanisi was relentless in her pursuit, and as others flagged, she found extra to overhaul the leader in the dying strides.
The form of the Champion Bumper has been called into question given plenty of the runners were close up in the straight, but the first five pulled clear by daylight, and the winner deserves enormous credit for making up the ground she did in a race where the leaders werent's stopping according to sectional analysis, and her manoeuvre from inner to outer on the home turn cost her further ground and momentum, so to maintain her impetus as strongly as she did up the hill was genuinely noteworthy, and she continued to pull away after crossing the line to indicate that she had even more to offer. The bare form of the race may not be viewed as vintage, but few winners of the corresponding contest have had to overcome the difficulties she did, and she looks a most exciting prospect for next season.
In assessing Fayonagh's chances of making the top echelon over hurdles, it is helpful to examine her previous runs and also her pedigree for clues. Cheltenham was a career-best effort, but she was very impressive in winning at Fairyhouse on her first start for Gordon Elliott, having been bought on behalf of Maura Gittins after winning under JJ Slevin for trainer Richie Rath at Naas.
That Naas win was deemed modest form at the time, as is often the case when an outsider from an unfashionable yard lands a bumper, but subsequent wins for five of the nine who chased her home suggested it was a decent race, and that notion has been borne out since. What was most impressive in that effort was that she looked sure to be swallowed up as the field bore down on her at the top of the straight, but she rallied splendidly when meeting the rising ground, and was going away from her rivals at the finish.
She was subsequently sold for £64,000 at Tattersalls (Cheltenham) in December, and made the perfect start for new connections when slamming a field containing a trio of last-time-out winners by twenty lengths and fifteen, a remarkable display of dominance in what had looked a really competitive race.
It's rare to see mares blitz their rivals for speed and stamina in that manner, and such a display brings back memories of dominant performers like Dawn Run, Solerina and Asian Maze, and perhaps that's no coincidence, as Fayonagh is out of a half-sister to Solerina called Fair Ina, who was a useful bumper performer herself, and was set to do better over hurdles until injury forced her retirement.
Owner John Bowe sent the mare to Kalanisi and Fayonagh was the second produce of that mating. Solerina has achieved something close to legendary status in Irish racing circles, her 22 wins including three runnings of the Hatton's Grace Hurdle, a race the Bowe family won six times in seven years from 1999, and like her stablemate Limestone Lad, her popularity stemmed not simply from her many wins, but the gritty attitude and robust constitution she showed in racking those successes up.
We already know that Fayonagh has inherited a huge amount of that ability, and her triumph over adversity at Cheltenham shows that she lacks nothing in courage either. Granted a clean run through the coming season, she promises to send a shiver down the spine in the way her illustrious forebear did – racing will be all the richer for such a thrill.