Racing's affinity with Faugheen was abundantly clear for all to see at Limerick today as the horse dubbed 'the machine' won an epic renewal of the Grade 1 Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase, to the delight of the adoring crowd.
The race attained Grade 1 status in 2018 and today's second renewal of the top level race was billed as a chance at redemption for Gordon Elliott's Samcro against rising 12 year old and former Champion Hurdler Faugheen.
Samcro was a dramatic second-last fence faller in the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse earlier this month and today started the 4/6 favourite but the support for Faugheen held solid as 2/1 second-favourite.
In the race Jimmy Mangan's promising chaser Castlebrook (10/1) attempted to force the early pace but with a full circuit to race, began to feel the pinch and dropped behind leaders Faugheen and Samcro.
That pair held those first two positions for the complete final circuit and raced well clear of third-placed Castlebrook in the final half-mile.
Faugheen moved clear of Samcro after jumping the second last fence and having safely negotiated the final fence, galloped to the line the ten lengths winner. The race was effectively a 'match' in the home straight, with Castlebrook finishing 22 lengths behind in third.
Faugheen received a rapturous reception on returning to the packed winners' enclosure with jockey Mullins performing a flying dismount.
The Champion Amateur was delighted, and a smidgen emotional, following the performance and later said “he was electric and jumped fantastic apart from one mistake.
“The plan in my head was to get over the third last fence, the ditch, and wind it up from there. That's what we did and we raced down the hill and by the time we got into the home straight I knew I had Samcro off the bridle.
“He was very good at the last two, when I needed him, and chasing turns him on — you can really feel it.
“John Codd (Faugheen's work-rider) was saying to that he was as good as he ever felt and I wasn't sure we could beat Samcro but John filled me full of confidence. Talking to David (Casey), Paul (Townend) and Ruby (Walsh) and they all said his cruising speed is his weapon.
“Today was the plan but after than is he an RSA horse?
“We won't rule anything out but we'll enjoy today. The Moriarty Chase at Leopardstown appears the obvious next race before Cheltenham and then see how you go.
“By god he is something else and the reception he received was very special.”
“I did one (a flying dismount) on Bacardys once previously at Punchestown!”