Punchestown Festival: Faugheen storms to Champion Stayers Hurdle win

It was Faugheen's sixth race win at Punchestown
It was Faugheen's sixth race win at Punchestown

Faugheen rediscovered his old magic to clinch an emphatic victory in the Punchestown Champion Stayers Hurdle.

The former Champion Hurdle winner made all the running and surged clear around the final bend to lead home a 1-2-3 for trainer Willie Mullins.

The 10 year-old finished well clear of stablemates Penhill and Shaneshill.

Mullins also saddled the other big grade one winner of the day when Footpad took the Novice Chase to secure his fifth consecutive win.

It completed a hat-trick of wins for the Mullins stable after Cadmium had earlier captured the Handicap Chase and the County Carlow-based handler has extended his lead over Gordon Elliott in the Irish trainers' championship.

Elliott began the day narrowly behind his rival in the prize-money stakes and his chances of regaining the lead received a boost when Park Paddocks won the opening JLT Handicap Hurdle.

But the two grade one victories for Mullins means he has extended his overall advantage to more than 424,000 euro with two days remaining.

The Machine proves he still has it

Nicknamed 'The Machine', Faugheen was feared to be past his peak after a disappointing showing at the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle and Penhill was sent off as favourite in the big race of the day.

However the veteran of the field, with jockey David Mullins on board, set a relentless pace and was well clear before the final hurdle to claim the ninth grade one victory of his career.

On another successful evening for the Mullins team, Daryl Jacob was in the saddle as Footpad continued his winning streak with a dominant victory in the Novice Chase.

There was also a dramatic finish to the La Touche Cup as Auvergnat beat stablemate Josies Orders in a 1-2 for trainer Enda Bolger.

Analysis

Horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

When a disappointing recent run saw Faugheen lose his 'Machine' tag, including when he was a well-beaten sixth behind Buveur D'Air in the Champion Hurdle, plenty of us were inclined to think retirement was perhaps beckoning.

Not after this however. Relishing racing over three miles for only the third time he maybe got an 'easy', uncontested lead, but he took advantage for a simply sensational return to winning ways.

He looked every bit his best and it was a total contrast to those recent runs.

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