Kempton preview: Christmas Hurdle (14.35)
David Metcalf | December 23, 2015
Faugheen suffered a shock defeat on seasonal reappearance but looks a worthy red-hot favourite to bounce back and land the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton for a second year running (14.35).
The Willie Mullins trained gelding is a dual Cheltenham Festival winner who was unbeaten in his first nine start over the obstacles.
After easily landing the Coral Hurdle on return to action at Ascot last season, Faugheen followed up in facile fashion when impressively landing this contest by eight lengths from Purple Bay.
The seven-year-old went on to beat stable companion Arctic Fire by 1 1/2 lengths in the Champion Hurdle, and rounded off the campaign with a stunning eight length success over the same rival in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
Fantastic Faugheen should be Christmas Hurdle hero
Those successes marked Faugheen out as something special, and the horse dubbed “The Machine” was sent off at odds 1/6 to maintain his unbeaten record when reappearing at Punchestown last month.
However, in the race itself Faugheen was never travelling as sweetly as usual and, after a couple of jumping errors, failed to overhaul another stablemate in Nichols Canyon by 1/2 a length.
Connections were left baffled by the result, as Faugheen had trounced the winner in a recent gallop, but it may well have been just a case that he badly needed the outing.
Whatever the reason for the defeat, Faugheen is sure to come on a bundle for the run and on form looks a cut above his rivals.
Faugheen foe is The New One
If he does fail to live up to expectations then The New One is the obvious one to take advantage.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained gelding is a top class performer who finished an unlucky in-running third to Jezki in the 2014 Champion Hurdle, and looked as good as ever when winning his first four starts last season.
Although he could then finish only fifth an 8 3/4 length fifth to Faugheen in the the Champion Hurdle back in March, The New One raced far too keenly and made several mistakes before weakening late on.
There is little doubt in my mind that he is far better than that, and The New One comes into the race on the back of a pleasing winning return to action over course and distance which should have blown away the cobwebs and put him spot on for this.
For more festive horse racing, check out our dedicated section.
Coral’s top tip: Faugheen looks a cut above on the pick of his form and can regain the winning thread. The New One can chase him home