The memorable win for Faugheen over Samcro in the St Stephen's Day Novice Chase last year was a throwback to his glory days, and Patrick Mullins says it was one he'll remember forever.
The former Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner had been written off by many in 2018 following a run of defeats and layoffs.
But the Willie Mullins trained star produced a performance for the ages when he pulled clear of favourite Samcro to win by 10 lengths, in just a second run over fences.
Patrick Mullins was on the saddle that day, his first time ever riding Faugheen, and speaking to Ger and Johnny Ward on our HRI Christmas Racing remote roadshow, says it was an occasion that will live long in his memory.
"It is one of my favourite memories ever. It was one of the few races I can remember being nervous beforehand, I went down to ride Unaccepted earlier in the day and I had to wait around for a bit.
After a storied career over hurdles, Willie Mullins sent Faugheen over fences in 2019, and despite winning at Punchestown in his first outing that November, there were concerns over his jumping heading into the Limerick Grade 1.
"Obviously he hadn’t jumped fantastic on his first start – he was going novice chasing at a late age – stepping up to a Grade 1. In the race everything went to plan, he jumped from fence to fence, he made one mistake," Patrick Mullins said.
"Samcro joined us at the top of the hill, we were cranking it up all the way down the hill into the straight. I was trying to see who was going to crack first, and once we got into the straight and Faugheen was seeing the second last he just attacked it and left Samcro for dead.
"When we landed at the back of the last the roar, just the noise, the wave of sound that hit us. I haven’t experienced anything like it before. All the way back up the parade ring, the Limerick crowd just gave us a fabulous reception. It was definitely a magic day in my life."
The 2020 renewal of that Grade 1 Novice Chase has since been renamed in Faugheen's honour, and Mullins believes that the electric reception reserved for the horse that afternoon is attributable to the punters' appreciation of a comeback story.
"The only other time I’ve heard it (that kind of reception) is when Hurricane Fly won his last race in Leopardstown. I remember he got a very similar reception. It’s just those older horses are the horses that get it. They have to have been around for 5, 6 or 7 years. They have to have been at the top, lost it and then come back. And that’s the connection Faugheen has with people. When he started his career and was winning all around him, he wasn’t as popular as he is now after his trials and tribulations.
"That’s what makes him such a popular horse."
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