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Cheltenham Festival News: Faugheen hits the headlines and heads to Kempton with John?

Cheltenham Festival News:  Faugheen hits the headlines and heads to Kempton with John?

It has been a busy news week for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.  The annual four day race meeting, which is the ‘Holy Grail’ of National Hunt horse racing, may feature a ‘championship’ race every day but the Timico Gold Cup and Unibet Champion Hurdle are the undoubted headline acts.

An imperious performance by Faugheen at Punchestown meant a plethora of ‘professional money’ and doubtlessly a raft of 2018 Cheltenham free bets combined to see his priced smashed into a proverbial jigsaw puzzle and the 2015 Cheltenham Hurdle winner is now trading at just 9/4 with the big race sponsors.

Sound Plans

That’s actually the industry best price about the Irish trained horse who belied an injury induced 665 day absence to astound race fans. His trainer, Willie Mullins, who has handled the horse for all 13 of his 14 career wins, explained to the Sporting Life afterwards:

“It was great to see him back in action. It was a great relief to have him back and a relief to get him on the racetrack. He seems to have come out of the race well, which is very pleasing.

“Nearly every horse gets an injury of some description, but certainly seeing what he did (at Punchestown) probably makes you realise how hard it is to get a horse of that class that can retain that ability after a lengthy time off. I think it was above expectations. I was hoping to get him back and run sound and I certainly didn’t expect him to do anything like that..”

Sizing Plans

That statement means Kempton Park on December 26th could be the one meeting not to miss.  In addition to the Christmas Hurdle, Boxing Day is King George Day at Kempton, the second biggest race in Steeplechasing and now the intended destination for the 2017 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Sizing John.

The joint 6/1 favourite for what National Hunt fans consider to be the plinth on the pantheon, Sizing John has been in the news aplenty in recent times.  Firstly his owner, Alan Potts, passed away.  The Yorkshireman was 80 but, nevertheless his death came as a shock to all in horse racing.

A week later Sizing John’s trainer announced her superstar will miss his intended engagement in the Betfair Chase at Haydock due to heavy ground and will instead race at Punchestown on December 10th en-route to the King George.

That scuppers what most judges believe to be the only real chance of any horse claiming the £1million bonus offered by the Jockey Club to a horse that wins the Betfair Chase, the 32Red King George VI Chase and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season.

Of course it is a massive ask for any horse.  Sizing John has won his last four races and has never been out the frame in 11 chase starts.  But back-to-back Gold Cup wins (not alone the £1 million big race treble) are nigh impossible.  In fact it was three-time winner Best Mate which last achieved the fete in 2003/2004. Before that the history books show you need to look back to L’Escargot in 1970/1971.

As far a news stories go in National Hunt racing, a Cheltenham Festival victory for either Faugheen or Sizing John will give us the biggest headlines the sport has enjoyed this decade. 

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