Faugheen the machine still in working order
Faugheen turned in the best performance by a novice chaser so far this season on Boxing Day when he lowered the colours of Samcro.
Faugheen, who will turn 12 on New Year’s Day, is not exactly your typical novice chaser, but Willie Mullins’ 2015 Champion Hurdle winner rolled back the years at Limerick to extend his unbeaten record over fences and land the 11th Grade 1 of his career.
Much had been expected of Samcro this season following his impressive chase debut at Down Royal in November, but he was no match for his highly decorated rival, who outjumped him in the main before pulling clear to win by ten lengths.
Faugheen is clearly still a high-class performer, despite his age, and could yet do better over fences.
His performance prompted a reaction from the bookies, with some making him favourite for the Marsh Novices’ Chase (formerly JLT) at the Cheltenham Festival.
His next target is the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown in February and he is likely to take plenty of beating if lining up.
Epatante lays down a marker in the two-mile division
Epatante and Fusil Raffles, both lightly-raced hurdlers trained by Nicky Henderson, dominated the betting in a Christmas Hurdle in which most of the more established runners were either exposed as a little below top class or had something to prove.
Fusil Raffles ran too badly to be true and was pulled up two out, but Epatante established herself as a serious Champion Hurdle contender with an impressive five-length victory, cruising into control between the last two hurdles before pulling clear impressively.
J.P. McManus’s charge deservedly shot to the head of the Champion Hurdle betting and, with further improvement anticipated, is clearly one to keep on the right side.
Kemboy is still a top-class chaser
It was a high-quality renewal of the Savills Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday, featuring most of the best-staying chasers in Ireland – including the Willie Mullins-trained Kemboy.
Kemboy had established himself as the best-staying chaser in training last season, winning three times at Grade 1 level, putting up an especially meritorious effort when beating Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo at Punchestown.
Kemboy may have finished only fourth on his belated return after eight months off at Leopardstown but he shaped with plenty of encouragement in a race to view positively.
The three-time Grade 1 winner looked a bit rusty early on, but warmed to his task and lost little in defeat behind a trio who all had the benefit of a recent outing.
The obvious next target is the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February and Kemboy will take some beating if stripping fitter for his Christmas comeback.
* All odds correct at time of posting.