Faugheen (aka ‘The Machine’) was one of the most impressive winners of the Cheltenham Festival’s Unibet Champion Hurdle in living memory. But that was back in 2015 when the winner of 13 races (from 14 starts) was aged seven.
Very little water has gone under the bridge since as the horse went lame after winning the Irish Champion Hurdle by a record breaking 15 lengths in January 2016 and has spent almost two years on the side lines.
But the remarkable horse returned with victory in Punchestown’s Morgiana Hurdle in late November and is now the ante-post favourite for ‘the big one’ in the Prestbury Park course in March.
Champion Hurdle Offer
If you want to bet on the Irish-trained horse now you can get a top-price of 9/4. However the 2018 Cheltenham betting page by Freebets.co.uk does show first time customers opening a new betting account with some partner bookmakers can get double and even treble those odds courtesy of ‘price boosts’ and free bet offers.
But is Faugheen the Machine the worthy favourite his price indicates? Well there is no doubting he was one of the finest Champion Hurdle winners of all time and his amazing win record speaks for itself. However, form book students will tell you that Sea Pigeon was the last horse aged 10 to win the two-mile Cheltenham Festival feature race way back in 1980. In fact, since then, all but three winners have been aged 8 or younger.
Faugheen will turn 10-years old in January. Ok, he cannot read the form books and, like most of us he probably cares to forget his age. Nevertheless, those looking for reasons to take on the great horse do not need to look far for reasons to justify their opposition.
Sizing up the Cheltenham Gold Cup Market
And the stats are against another of National Hunt racing stars, 2017 Gold Cup winner Sizing John. Firstly there has not been a back-to-back winner of the three-mile two-furlong Cheltenham Gold Cup since Best Mate in 2003/2004. Secondly, neither of the 2015 and 2016 winners (Coneygreeor Don Cossack) even made it back to the Gold Cup Day after winning the fabled race.
Given those facts it is hard to tip the defending champion despite him turning 8 as 2018 dawns. Eight-years-of-age is deemed to be the perfect age for steeple chasers.
Samcro Scares Us
But turning our attention to a lesser known horse who has yet to etch their name on a major trophy, we really like a horse by the name of Samcro and he’s among our top Cheltenham tips.
A five year old, owned by Ryanair boss’ Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, this horse is unbeaten in five career starts going off odds-on favourite on every occasion.
Winning his last start by 15 lengths, beating 21 rivals, he is likely to be headed for the Ballymore Novices Hurdle on Day 2, Wednesday March 14th, of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.