We continue our 'How do you solve a problem' series this week with a closer look at one of the most talked about horses currently in the sport. The spotlight falls on the Willie Mullins trained Faugheen who made his name over the winter as the best novice hurdler in training and appears to have a bright future. Exactly where that future lies is however up in the air at the moment with a number of paths open to a horse that appears to have both stamina and speed to burn.
At the moment, Faugheen is currently towards the head of four different race markets for the 2015 Cheltenham Festival and with his plans yet to be confirmed, we have taken a closer look at each of his potential opportunities next year.
Champion Hurdle - Faugheen @ 6/1
Faugheen has made his name over hurdles so far during his career and with that in mind there is a strong possibility he will remain over the smaller obstacles. He has been a little bit fiddly over the hurdles at times but has improved with every run as he showed at Cheltenham when winning the Neptune and then at Punchestown when he won the Champion Novice Hurdle.
That success at the Punchestown Festival was his first run down at two miles since his bumper campaign and he seemed to relish the gallop. He travelled and jumped better than ever before pulling away from the field on the run-in to raise hopes of a Champion Hurdle tilt. The extra strong gallop seemed to help his previously scratchy jumping technique and that is essential if he is to mix it with the big boys of the Champion Hurdle.
Previous to that success, he had been thought of as a stayer with all of his hurdle wins coming over further, including three miles on heavy ground, but he clearly also has plenty of gears. That stamina could well be used elsewhere though which could hinder his chances of running in the Champion Hurdle, especially with other potential two mile hurdlers in the yard like Vautour and Un De Sceaux.
World Hurdle - Faugheen @ 10/1
That aforementioned stamina could well be utilised if Faugheen heads to the World Hurdle with some on-line firms happy to place him towards the head of the stayers hurdle market. He had no problem winning the Neptune at Cheltemham over 2m4f which is always a stamina test, while as we have already mentioned, he does already have a 3m win on his record which came in testing ground at Limerick.
There is no doubt that the World Hurdle is a less prestigious prize than the Champion Hurdle but with the same owner and trainer also having Annie Power, Moyle Park and Vautour to consider, surely one of them will be aimed at the stayers hurdle. Annie Power finished second in the World Hurdle back in March but could go chasing instead of trying to go one better, which could see a horse like Faugheen considered in her place.
Arkle Chase - Faugheen @ 10/1
The general feeling at the moment is that one of Vautour or Faugheen will likely go chasing next season which does open up a number of possibilities for connections. If Faugheen is the one to go over fences then the Arkle Chase would surely come into consideration for a horse who has shown plenty of speed. As we have already mentioned, he blew a Grade 1 hurdle field away over two miles at Punchestown and if he can translate that speed to fences, there is no reason to think he wouldn't be a major player if he was aimed at the Arkle next March.
We have however already mentioned that Faugheen has made the odd mistake over hurdles, without ever falling, which might count against him in the decision to go chasing. Mullins and Rich Ricci will also need to consider Vautour who won the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham and many believe that he is the most likely to go chasing next season. There is however no doubt that Faugheen does have the speed and class needed to feature in an Arkle if indeed connections decide to go down that path.
RSA Chase - Faugheen @ 8/1
The final option connections will be considering for Faugheen is the RSA Chase and this once again is within the scope of the horse. This will once again assume that the horse will go chasing and as he has proven before, three miles is unlikely to be a problem for such a versatile sort. The RSA would be the sensible route if Mullins believes that Faugheen is likely to end up as stayer rather than a speed horse but once again there are a number of other horses to consider in this equation.
Annie Power is currently a noticeable name in the RSA Chase betting and it would be a major surprise if both she and Faugheen were aimed at the same race in March, which punters must consider when trying to plot Faugheen's future. Briar Hill is another horse from the Mullins yard to consider with the World Hurdle or the RSA Chase likely to be his target depending on whether or not he too stays over hurdles or goes chasing.
Having a horse like Faugheen in your yard must be a dream come true for Willie Mullins but he will no doubt be desperate to keep his horses separate where possible next season, especially when they have the same owner in the form of American billionaie, Rich Ricci. All the signs at the moment suggest that one of either Faugheen or Vautour will go chasing and the smart money suggests that will be the latter.
If that does turn out to be the case we can expect to see Faugheen stay over hurdles with either the Champion Hurdle or the World Hurdle as his main aim. His win over two miles at Punchestown was particularly taking which would indicate that the Champion Hurdle is his likely target although he does have stamina which could lead to a World Hurdle tilt. That could become more likely if Annie Power goes chasing but at this very early stage, backing Faugheen to run in the 2015 Champion Hurdle looks like the most sensible bet.
Once again though, this is a problem that any other trainer would relish with Faugheen potentially one of the most talented young horses to have emerged on to the jumps scene in recent years. He has proven himself over any trip as a novice and wherever he goes next spring, we can expect him to be a major player at the very highest level.