Many people believe that age is just a number, Willie Mullins knows that to be true. On an emotional day at Leopardstown, 12-year-old Faugheen provided a demonstration of his enduring qualities to win the Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival, on a course where he suffered a brutal fall barely more than a year ago.
Mullins is one of the most decorated trainers and has enjoyed a long and successful career, but even he will have been moved by his horse’s triumph. Faugheen has been a horse racing success story throughout his career, with 11 Grade One wins to his name, and Mullins has been the chief beneficiary of ‘The Machine’s’ special talent.
“I’ve had lots of winners but this was special,” he said
It seems unthinkable that a horse whose first Grade One success was at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival is still competing at the highest level. But Faugheen proves the idea that winning performances depend on more than age, that elite strength and conditioning can be carried on into a racehorse’s later years.
“People want to retire horses at 10, 11 or 12, but to me, they have plenty of life in them if they haven’t used up the mileage as younger horses,” Mullins maintains. “They can go much longer than people think and [Faugheen is] the living proof of it. He’s got stamina, he’s got speed, he can jump. He’s got the whole package and a will [to win].”
Flash back to 14 months ago and it was a very different story for Faugheen
The fall led to some racing fans calling for Mullins to retire the horse, but this recent triumph perhaps proves that the trainer made the right decision. It was a moment for redemption for both horse and trainer, and proof of the old adage that class is permanent.
Attention turns to what lies next for a horse that BBC horse racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght described as in “equine ‘bus pass’ territory”. With the Cheltenham Festival looming, Faugheen has emerged as the favourite for the Novices’ Chase, and those looking to place a bet on Cheltenham may fancy the golden oldie’s chances once again.
There is something about this kind of victory that reinforces punters’ love of horse racing. It had once seemed so unlikely that Faugheen would be winning big races again, but with one stellar example he is back among the favourites for one of the sport’s biggest annual meetings. Throughout his career, Faugheen has consistently shown that he is in the upper echelon as far as jumps races are concerned, and although at one stage the odds were stacked against him, he has emerged as a force to be reckoned with once again. Cheltenham better watch out, Faugheen is doing it for the oldies.