Ricci retains Faugheen faith

03 January 2018 21:25:15 GMTPlus11

Owner Rich Ricci isn't giving up on the notion of Faugheen regaining the Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March, despite his recent setback.

Faugheen was the two-mile hero at Prestbury Park in 2016 but last Friday he met with just the second defeat of his career in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown.

The Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen was sent off 2/11 favourite for the Grade One having impressively won the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November on his return from injury.

He never appeared to be travelling with his usual zest and jockey Paul Townend pulled him up after the third last flight when he had dropped to the tail of the field.

Ricci says nothing untoward has been detected since with Faugheen, now 3.75 to regain the Champion Hurdle.

"Paul said that he just didn't feel right from the start. He was a bit listless and didn't have the same enthusiasm," Ricci told Talk Sport.

"He was fine after the race, we've got him home and he's normal. I'm hoping in the next day or two that something comes out and he's been incubating a cold or something.

"Paul did the right thing in pulling him up."

Ricci received a message from Britain's champion trainer Nicky Henderson after the race, with the Seven Barrows handler expressing his sorrow Faugheen's flop. Henderson's Buveur D'air is the reigning Champion Hurdler and now 1.53 to win again in March.

Ricci still hopes that Faugheen will get there in March to take on Buveur D'air in what had become a much-anticipated clash.

Asked if he felt confident that Faugheen could still make an appearance in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, the owner said: "Barring anything popping up of a more serious nature, absolutely, we'll crack on.

"Whether he'll go for the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in the first week of February, or whether he'll go straight to Cheltenham, I don't know but we'll crack on.

"Hopefully it's just one of those things. As Nicky Henderson says, we've got the 'conga in the Cotswolds' still to come."

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