Faugheen's retirement leaves legion of fans with a lifetime of memories

The Machine was the real deal from Leopardstown to Cheltenham to Punchestown

Saturday, May 08, 2021
Dublin Racing Festival Faugheen

What a reception,Paul Townend's win in the Flogas Novice Chase at the 2020 Dublin Racing Festival was special for all who witnessed it

So ‘The Machine’ will rage no more … but to paraphrase Dr Seuss, don’t cry because it’s over, just smile because it happened, writes James Toney.

There are horses whose resume sparkles brighter and bolder but there was something truly special about the Faugheen story, as a legion of die-hard supporters either side of the Irish Sea will testify.

Bought by Peter and Tom Quinlan for just €4,000, 13 years, 26 races and 17 wins - including 11 Grade 1s - later and all good things must come to an end, with €1.6m of prize money banked and a lifetime of memories seared.

That Champion Hurdle win at Cheltenham will always be his greatest achievement but though the way he rolled back the years to win the Flogas Novice Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival last year was arguably just as special.

The ovation he got on returning to the parade ring sent shivers down the spine on a cold February afternoon - a real 'I was there' moment.

“The noise and the sprinting of the crowd to the parade ring was something I will never forget,” owner Rich Ricci told The Sun.

“My indelible memories of Faugheen however will always be of the great horse and his groom John Codd. You never saw one without the other.

“As great a trainer as Willie is and as impressive the record of the jockeys that rode him, surely John deserves a huge amount of credit for his longevity and success.

“We have been blessed to have owned some special horses but Faugheen will always have a special place amongst them.”

Faugheen changed hands a couple of times before he eventually made his way to the ownership of Rich and Susannah Ricci, racing in those famous pink and green polka dot silks.

He arrived at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival on the back of four straight wins at Punchestown, Navan and Limerick and blew the competition out of the water to win a first Grade 1.

The Champion Novice Hurdle followed at the Punchestown Festival and the following season saw wins at Ascot and Kempton before he was sent off an odds-on favourite for Ruby Walsh in the Champion Hurdle.

There was only going to be one result, Walsh's savvy underlined when he elected to ride him rather than then stable favourite Hurricane Fly, the two-time champion.

"When he matures he's going to be something," he said.

However, the second half of his career was plagued by injuries, with 665 days between two races and two spells of 200 plus days off the track.

However, trainer Willie Mullins never lost the faith and a late career change to chasing was rewarded with that famous win at Leopardstown and a battling third behind Samcro at last year’s Cheltenham Festival.

“He had an enthusiasm for the game,” said Patrick Mullins.

“You can see how much he likes it, with ears pricked. He never got bored of it. He knew what he was doing and that the point of the race was to win it. You can’t teach that – they either have that or they don’t

“I suppose you have to wonder without his hold-ups and setbacks what he would have gone on to achieve, which is saying something considering what he’s done. He’ll be a very, very hard horse to replace.”

We have been blessed to have owned some special horses but Faugheen will always have a special place amongst them.
- Rich Ricci 

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