Faugheen: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a brand new post! Today I am bringing to you the second post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series! And I am bringing to you another one of my personal favourites, Faugheen!

Faugheen was foaled 2nd May 2008, by Germany (USA) out of Miss Pickering (IRE). He was bred by Dr John Waldron in Ireland. As a foal he was consigned to the Tattersalls Ireland Sale and brought for 4000 by Peter Quinlan. In June 2011, his brother Tom Quinlan sent the now three year old to the Goffs National Hunt Sale where he was brought for 12000 by Meadowview Stables. He then went into training with Andrew Slattery on the amateur point-to-point circuit.

On 29th April 2012 Faugheen competed at the Ballysteen meeting, starting as the 2/1 second favourite where he won by eight lengths. During the summer of 2012 he was then purchased by Mrs S Ricci and was sent straight into training with Willie Mullins. Very quickly Faugheen became the subject of support for the 2013 Champion Bumper without setting foot on a racecourse, however due to an injury Faugheen was out of action for over a year before returning to the track in 2013.

On 11th May 2013, he returned to Punchestown for a National Hunt Flat Race being ridden by Willie’s son Patrick Mullins winning as the 11/8 favourite. After taking a summer break, Faugheen returned to Punchestown, for a Maiden Hurdle, ridden by Ruby Walsh, this time winning as the odds on favourite at 1/5. A couple of weeks later he reappeared at Navan on 7th December 2013, again under Ruby Walsh, winning as the odds on 1/9 favourite. Three weeks later on 28th December 2013 he then went to Limerick under Emmet Mullins, again winning as the odds on 8/13 favourite.

He took a 74 day break, before returning for the Cheltenham Festival in 2014 for the Novice Hurdle on 12th March where he impressively won by 4 1/2 lengths under Ruby Walsh as the 6/4 favourite. Six weeks later he returned to Ireland for the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle Grade 1 at Punchestown on 29th April where, unsurprisingly, he won again under Ruby Walsh as the odds on 1/2 favourite.

Faugheen then took a long summer break of 207 days before returning on 22nd November 2014, this time running in England at Ascot in the Ascot Hurdle Grade 2 race, where he started again as the odds on 1/4 favourite, again, unsurprisingly winning under Ruby Walsh. Next up for Faugheen was the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day 2014, where again he started as the 4/11 odds on favourite, once again wnning under Ruby Walsh.

We then move into 2015, where Faugheen went straight to the Cheltenham Festival competing in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy on 10th March. Once again starting the race as the odds on favourite at 4/5 and as expected he produced another win with his regular rider Ruby Walsh. He then went to Punchestown to compete in the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 1st May 2015, where, now unsurprisingly he started as the 1/6 odds on favourite, where he won with Ruby Walsh riding. Maybe interesting to note, Tiger Roll also competed in this race, coming 4th out of 4. What different routes these two horses took!

With a 198 day summer break, Faugheen then returned to the track on 15th November at Punchestown, where he started as the 1/6 favourite with Ruby Walsh, however, a shock to many, he ended up coming second, only a half furlong behind stable companion Nichols Canyon (7/1) rode by David Mullins. We then move on to the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day 2015, where Faugheen was ready to redeem himself after his first loss by retaining his Christmas Hurdle crown. He went off as the 1/4 favourite and won once again under Ruby Walsh.

Now moving into 2016, one month after his last win Faugheen returned to Ireland where he competed in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on 24th January 2016, winning as the 30/100 favourite, again partnering with Ruby Walsh. Just a month later on 17th February 2016, Willie Mullins announced Faugheen would be out of the Cheltenham Festival and beyond due to injury, tweeting:

Unfortunately #Faugheen will not run @Cheltenhamraces. He has a sore suspensory ligament”

https://twitter.com/WillieMullinsNH/status/699952230187798533?s=20

Later explaining:

We were just bringing him back. We had 28 days from yesterday to the Champion Hurdle and I said ‘I better start doing a bit with him’ and getting serious. He was just a little bit sore and our vet confirmed he had a small suspensory (injury) and I didn’t want to risk going any further. I just took a view that it was better to stop now and he’d be back for next year.”

https://www.rte.ie/sport/racing/2016/0217/768714-faugheen-ruled-out-of-cheltenham-festival/

Faugheen was expected to return for the start of the 2017 year, however Willie Mullins pulled him out of the Irish Champion Hurdle and eventually missed out on the 2017 Cheltenham Festival too.

Faugheen finally returned to the track in November 2017 after 665 days off the track, making a lot of racing fans happy to see him back! Even after a very very long break away from the track, he still returned to be the 4/11 odds on favourite on 19th November, where he surprised absolutely nobody by winning the Grade 1 hurdle, this time under Paul Townend. He then went on to run in the Ryanair Hurdle Grade 1 at Leopardstown on 29th December 2017, where upsettingly to many, he was pulled up by Paul Townend, much to the concern of the racing public.

We then move swiftly into 2018, where Faugheen returned to Leopardstown on 3rd February for the Irish Champion Hurdle, this time placing second under Paul Townend as the 9/10 favourite behind Supasundae (8/1) for Robbie Power. Next for Faugheen was the Champion Hurdle on 13th March 2018 at Cheltenham. This was the first time I had seen the Champion Hurdle in person and I was actually quite emotional this day, I remember seeing Faugheen come down the shoot from the parade ring and hearing people around me say how this may be his last time in England and he won’t continue much longer – Little did those people know right? Anyway, he went off at 4/1 back with regular jockey Ruby Walsh, where he finished 6th, with Buveur D’Air (4/6F) winning.

Just when people thought Faugheen was down and out, he returned to Punchestown on 26th April 2018 where he competed in the Stayers Hurdle Grade 1 over 3 miles under David Mullins where he won at 11/2 – The biggest odds he had ever started at in his entire career, beating favourite and stable companion Penhill (2/1) under Paul Townend.

After a 206 day summer break, Faugheen returned to Punchestown on 18th November for a Grade 1 Hurdle race, back to being the 2/5 odds on favourite under Ruby Walsh. However, he finished second behind stable companion, also owned by Mrs S Ricci, Sharjah (7/2) again rode by Paul Townend. Next was just over a month later when he went to Leopardstown for the Christmas Hurdle on 28th December, starting at 7/2 with Ruby Walsh, however falling 2 out with odds on favourite Apple’s Jade (8/13) being the eventual winner.

We then move into 2019 where Faugheen went straight to the Cheltenham Festival running in the Stayers Hurdle on 14th March, where he placed 3rd at 4/1 with Ruby Walsh, behind Paisley Park (11/8F) ridden by Aidan Coleman and Sam Spinner (33/1) ridden by Joe Colliver. Next was the Aintree Hurdle at Aintree on 4th April, where Faugheen got pulled up by Ruby Walsh after the 5th at 4/1. It was later found that he was suffering from atrial fibrillation. Definition: Atrial fibrillation is a condition that causes an irregular and often fast heartbeat.

Faugheen then took a 226 day break. In this time it was decided he would go chasing so on 16th November 2019 Faugheen returned to Punchestown, to run in a Beginners Chase. He started as the 8/11 favourite and won with Paul Townend on board. Next was a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Limerick on Boxing Day 2019 where he went off at 2/1 with Patrick Mullins riding, here he beat 4/6 favourite Samcro.

We then swiftly move into 2020 and arguably the weekend that brought all racing fans together. The Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown on 2nd February where Faugheen blew the roof off with Paul Townend winning as the 13/8 joint favourite. I remember this day so so clearly, I can’t remember a time where social media was as buzzing as it was after this win. As a whole, racing fans everywhere wanted to see Faugheen back to his best and this day was something very very special, one I will probably never forget watching!

Faugheen then went to the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on 12th March where he went off as the 3/1 favourite, he came 3rd behind Samcro (4/1) for Davy Russell who won as well as stable companion Melon (14/1) who finished second.

Faugheen has not rode since, with Patrick Mullins saying about Faugheen and Douvan in January 2021:

They’ve both had setbacks. Faugheen is in the yard, he got clipped during the week”

https://www.irishmirror.ie/sport/horse-racing/faugheen-douvan-likely-miss-years-23284269

So at 13 years old, it looks highly unlikely we will see Faugheen again this season and we have no clear indication of where we may see him again, if we do. So it’s a waiting game until Willie Mullins announces the plans for Faugheen if there are any.

So, now that I’ve caught you up on a brilliant career, I want to just explain a few facts about Faugheen which I researched and read into and I couldn’t get my head around.

So firstly, I am going to go through Faugheen’s race record of all of those races I have just been through:

 1/11111/1111/1211/1P261/2F3P/1113-

So, summing it up, apart from being pulled up twice, falling once and finishing 6th once, Faugheen has always finished within the top 3.

So, summing it up, Faugheen’s professional career, which is those above minus his one point-to-point run, so far in numbers:

26 Races
17 x 1st
3 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
1 x 6th
1 x Fall
2 x Pulled Up

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves for Faugheen. In his career, he has made over £1.1 million but also made so many fall in love with him. He is a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and will give you a million percent every single time and I personally think that is why people love him so much. When we look back at 2020 and how many people were talking about Faugheen, it was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it and I know so many others who did too. I would love to see Faugheen at least one more time and go out with a bang and another win to his name. But I also want him to end his ridiculously successful career on his own terms, so in that respect, it is purely down to Willie and connections on what will happen next. Owner Rich Ricci did say at Cheltenham the following so nobody really knows what could happen next, especially as he’s had a setback this year too:

I don’t know (what happens next), it is a good question. We’ve got the Punchestown back in Ireland and I think the Irish would like to see him one more time, so if he is fit and well and ready to rock we will probably call it a day then. I’m not sure we will come back for a Gold Cup next year at the age of 13, but we will see what the horse tells us.”

https://www.rte.ie/sport/racing/2020/0312/1121870-samcro-edges-melon-in-photo-to-win-marsh-novices-chase/

Thank you so much for reading this post, last weekend I put on Twitter all about my new series and I received over 100 suggestions of horses that people want me to research and look into and write up about, so I have plenty more of this content to come this year and probably into next with the amount I was sent! However, if you do have any other suggestions of horses you’d like me to focus in on then do send them my way and I can add them onto my list, the list is very very long but I will be trying to get through them all at some point!

I will hopefully see you all in my next post!