Sundae best: Harrington ace has the call as Faugheen fails to hit former heights
A redemption of sorts for Faugheen was not good enough to provide the eight-time Grade 1 winner with a second BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle as he was upstaged by Supasundae.
The Jessica Harrington-trained Supasundae ran out a two-and-a-quarter-length winner of the feature at Leopardstown on Saturday, setting up his trainer for a tilt at a big-race double given she has Our Duke in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup on Sunday.
Supasundae, winner of the Coral Cup last season, was cut to 5-2 favourite (from 5) for the Sun Bet Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham by BoyleSports, although a few firms were unable to split him and Sam Spinner at the head of that market at around 4-1.
Faugheen, meanwhile, was pushed out to as big as 8-1 for the Unibet Champion Hurdle, although the race sponsors offered only 3-1, going a best-priced 4-6 about favourite Buveur D'Air, an unextended winner at Sandown on Saturday.
Supasundae is not entered for the Champion Hurdle, to which it costs £20,000 to supplement at the six-day forfeit stage, and his trainer has eyes only for the Stayers'.
Robbie Power, who was winning the race for the first time, followed the frontrunning Faugheen before taking him on approaching the final hurdle and asserting on the run-in.
He said: "Today was basically a sharpener for the Stayers' Hurdle – and what a sharpener it was. Supasundae travelled brilliantly and has never jumped as quickly and well in his life as he did today. It's certainly a great bonus to get going on to Cheltenham."
Harrington, who had won the race previously with Macs Joy in 2005, said: "I’ve never seen Supasundae jump so well and he was always travelling – I thought they might go too quick for him over the two miles but that didn't happen.
"Robbie was sure that when he had Faugheen in his sights that he’d pick him up, and he did. When he jumped the last Supasundae pricked his ears, and he stayed all the way to the line."
She continued: "I came here for a prep run for the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and it was some prep run. He’s only in the three-mile race at Cheltenham and that’s where he’ll be going.
"He’s a much better horse on better ground and doesn't like slogging around on heavy ground, which is why he’s much better in the spring."
Harrington added: "It’s really sad that neither Alan nor Ann Potts are with us to see the fruits of what they started. The horse is starting to fulfil his potential now. I hope that their family are happy with that, and I hope that they carry on having horses."
Faugheen, who was sent off 9-10 favourite, stepped up on his dismal performance at the same track over Christmas, when he was pulled up, and cheers erupted from the stands on a couple of occasions as he continued in front.
However, when push came to shove the ten-year-old had nothing left to cope with eight-year-old Supasundae's winning surge.
Trainer Willie Mullins said of Faugheen: "I'm disappointed, although it wasn't half as bad as his run here in December.
"He had no spark and he's going to have to improve a lot if he's to get back to anything like he was. We'll wait and see how he comes out of the race before making any plans."
Faugheen, the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner, does have a Stayers' Hurdle entry at Cheltenham.
Mick Jazz, the chief beneficiary of Faugheen's flop when landing the Ryanair Hurdle in December, finished four and three-quarter lengths back in third place.
His trainer Gordon Elliott said: "He's run another very good race and there will be plenty of options for him in the coming months."
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