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Ruby Walsh: Faugheen still has a lot of progress in him and I want him to show that in the Champion Hurdle

The jockey with the most winners at the Cheltenham Festival (that's 41) reveals why he has picked Faugheen over Hurricane Fly for Tuesday's Champion Hurdle

by Ruby Walsh | March 8, 2015

It’s never easy to get off any good horse, let alone Hurricane Fly. But you can only ride one. You have to ride the one you think has the best chance of winning, and that’s Faugheen.

People will say I’m being, not sentimental maybe, but cautious. I could be on the wrong one, of course, but I’m very happy with Faugheen and his progress has been very good. Look, the form horse, as Willie Mullins has said, is Hurricane Fly.

But Faugheen still has a lot of progress in him, and I want him to show that at Cheltenham.

Barry Geraghty has said that he thinks Faugheen’s form doesn’t stack up, and Barry is right. When you look into Faugheen’s form, it is less than Hurricane Fly. Hurricane Fly has, of course, beaten Jezki who is the Champion Hurdle champion. Faugheen hasn’t beaten a horse of that calibre, yet. But that is not Faugheen’s fault.

Faugheen has beaten what’s been put in front of him, and beaten them quite easily.

As a marker, Blue Heron gave Dan Skelton a high-profile win in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton in February, beating Irving – and Faugheen danced all over them both at Kempton in December (in fact, Faugheen beat Blue Heron by 17 lengths).

Punchestown Racing, Punchestown Racecourse, Co. Kildare 16/11/2014 The Morgiana Hurdle Hurricane Fly ridden by Ruby Walsh leads home Jezki ridden by Mark Walsh to win Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

So, where are the dangers in the Champion Hurdle? The dangers are everywhere. There are four very, very good horses in this race: Jezki, The New One, Hurricane Fly and Jezki. The outsiders are no slouches either. For example, Bertimont ran The New One very close at Haydock in January, and he’s 100/1 for the Champion Hurdle.

When it’s all over it’ll be easy to say, yeah, I could see him winning. But I don’t have the benefit of hindsight when making a decision like Faugheen so I have to go with the one I think has the best chance.

Faugheen has course form too. Winners of the Neptune (which Faugheen won last year) have a good record in the Champion Hurdle, with Istabraq and Hardy Eustace just two examples.

The track doesn’t worry me. The ground doesn’t worry me. It’s the opposition I’m worried about.

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