It could very well be that it’s already over for Faugheen and nobody knows it yet. At some point over the next seven days, Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci will have the conversation they’ve been putting off since the Dublin Racing Festival. To go to Cheltenham or not, to keep his swansong for Easter at Fairyhouse or to pull stumps now and declare a career. Ask anyone in and around the situation and they will swear that all options are live runners.

For followers of the horse, assuming the brace position has long since been the only course of action. Nothing Faugheen does should come as a surprise at this point and yet even now, at five to midnight, there’s arguably no other horse in training this season that can match his ability to shock.

He wasn’t supposed to go novice chasing in the season he turned 12. He wasn’t supposed to keep winning Grade Ones. He wasn’t supposed to beat Samcro at Christmas. He wasn’t supposed to bring the house down at Leopardstown. What’s he supposed to do now? Given all that’s gone before, how could you presume to make such a call?

The story of Faugheen is anything but a linear one, after all. It has a beginning, a middle and an end alright, just not in that order. This bit, right now, his novice chasing season – that was supposed to be the middle.

Six years ago, after he won the Neptune (now Ballymore) Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, the future Mullins and Ricci had sketched out had him finishing up his hurdling career at Punchestown and starting off novice chasing the following winter. But the race he was supposed to run at Punchestown got changed – stablemate Vautour failed a fitness test for the two-mile Tuesday race so Faugheen ran in it instead and won by 12 lengths.

Have to wait

Come the following season, Vautour was gone novice chasing and Faugheen ended up leading home a 1-2-3 for Mullins in the Champion Hurdle. His chasing career would have to wait. And wait. And wait.

“It’s gas the way things work out,” says Joe Chambers, Ricci’s racing manager. “Faugheen’s story is laced with so many what-ifs and so many unintended consequences. He was supposed to go novice chasing but he went hurdling instead. Even if you go back to the start, when we bought him, there was another horse we bought the same week called Clondaw Court that nobody has really ever heard of. But he was a savage animal, an absolutely savage animal. You never know how these things will turn out.”

Clondaw Court won a point-to-point by 15 lengths in Largy, Co Antrim on Saturday, April 21st, 2012. Faugheen won his by eight lengths the following Sunday in Ballysteen, Co Limerick. Ricci was starting to up his investment in horses significantly right around then and would add Vautour, Annie Power and Douvan among others, all over the next 18 months. Four of the five went on to be Cheltenham heroes. Clondaw Court was the other one.

In fact, Clondaw Court ended up having only five runs before injury cut his career short. He won four of them, all at heavy odds-on, an indication of what they thought of him. But he ended up amassing only a paltry €29,400 in his career and after finishing sixth of seven in the 2015 Hatton’s Grace, was never seen again.



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