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  News Faugheen 'half back on track' but Supasundae too strong in Irish Champion Hurdle

Faugheen 'half back on track' but Supasundae too strong in Irish Champion Hurdle

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Faugheen failed to resolve the conundrum of his Christmas eclipse as he had to settle for second behind Supasundae in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Willie Mullins' superstar was pulled up when hot favourite in a Grade One at this track in December and owner Rich Ricci admitted he had questions to answer in seeking redemption on the opening day of the Dublin Racing Festival.

For a long way it looked as though 9-10 favourite Faugheen would rise to the challenge, but he ultimately had no answer when Supasundae (8-1) kicked on after the last, leaving Mullins disappointed and Ricci none the wiser as to where his 10-year-old now ranks.

Mullins said: "I was disappointed with him. He's sort of half back on track, but he'll have to improve a lot to be back where he was.

"I was actually very happy where he was coming round the last bend, but by the time they lined up for the last, the writing was on the wall.

"I was hoping at that stage he might pull something else out, but it wasn't to be.

"I'm just hoping spring ground, spring air and spring sunshine might rejuvenate him, but there's just no spark there, I think."

Ricci added: "Faugheen is 10, after all. He ran well, just didn't win, whatever the reason I don't know. He was better than the last day - but no real answers."

In contrast, the path could not be clearer for winning handler Jessica Harrington, with the Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the next port of call.

Supasundae benefited from a fine Robbie Power ride, sitting on the heels of the pacesetting Faugheen throughout before staying on strongly to win by two and a quarter lengths, with Mick Jazz back in third.

Harrington said: "He's never jumped as well before, he jumped absolutely super and was always travelling. I thought they'd go too quick for him over two miles and Robert was sure when he had Faugheen in his sights at the last he would stay every inch of the way, and he did.

"When he got to the front he was only pricking his ears and galloping away. I came here to give him a prep run for the three-mile hurdle at Cheltenham and to win this is some prep run!"

She went on: "He's only in the three-mile hurdle at Cheltenham, so that's where he'll be going. He is a much better horse on better ground, he does not like slogging around in very muddy ground and that's why he comes into his own in the spring.

"When he won his bumper, he beat Yanworth and I think he started favourite for the Cheltenham bumper and he is by Galileo so somewhere in there is a turn of foot."

Supasundae runs in the colours of the late Ann and Alan Potts, and Harrington said: "It's really sad that neither Ann nor Alan are here to see the fruits of what they started, particularly as the horse is starting to fulfil his true potential and it's just so sad that neither of them are here.

"I hope their family are delighted with that and I hope their family will carry on having the horses."

Faugheen's reverse saw William Hill cut Buveur D'Air, who won at Sandown earlier in the afternoon, to 1-2 for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. Mullins' runner is now an 8-1 shot, while Supasundae is 4-1 for the Stayers' Hurdle.

Gordon Elliott was thrilled by the performance of Mick Jazz and is now planning to head to Cheltenham before casting his net further afield.

He said: "I'm absolutely delighted with that, couldn't be happier. He'll go for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham and then the American Grand National."

Faugheen's stablemate Melon could finish only fifth, and jockey David Mullins said: "I don't know what to make of that run really."