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Faugheen – banker or blowout for Cheltenham Festival?

Ever since the Cheltenham ante-post markets opened, all talk in Ireland has been about Faugheen and how he is their Festival banker.

Willie Mullins’ six-year-old is unbeaten in five runs, two in bumpers and three over hurdles, and hasn’t yet been asked a serious question in all of those successes.

In terms of trends for the race he ticks all the right boxes, and meets the five leading criteria for the 2m 4f contest in that:

*All 10 of the of the last 10 winners were aged five or six

*9/10 finished first or second last time out

*9/10 started in the first six in the betting

*9/10 had already won over at least 2m 4f over hurdles

*9/10 had contested pattern races over hurdles

However the flip side is that in his first two wins over hurdles came in what some may consider Mickey Mouse races. Although he took the step into Grade 3 company in his stride when beating The Job Is Right by five lengths at Limerick last time out he is still far from fluent at the obstacles and yet to be put under pressure.

Nobody can be sure of what he will find when push really does come to shove, and there have been plenty of similar strong travelling types who have emptied out up the famous Cheltenham hill.

Another concern is that his handler has had several hot pots turned over in the race since landing back-to-back runnings in the contest in 2008 and 2009 with Fiveforthree and Mikael D’Haguenet.

So Young, who was sent off the 2/1 favourite in the 2010 running and had a similar unbeaten profile (add comma) finished third to First Lieutenant.