The annual gathering for the Festival and races at Cheltenham is less than three weeks away.  The March 13-16 event attracts the best National Hunt horses, jockeys, and trainers from the United Kingdom and Ireland.

An intriquing development is that the once-formidable Faugheen will be competing in the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.  The amazing horse won the race in 2015.  (Winning the 2016 Irish Champion Hurdle is considered to be the best performance of his career; for which he was rated the best 2-mile hurdler of this century.)   When he meets the Nicky Henderson-trained Buveur D’Air at Cheltenham, who won last year’s Champion Hurdle, what can be expected?

Looking at his defeat at Leopardstown, Faugheen does appear to be far off his best coming up to the Festival.  That was his second consecutive loss, which has never before occurred in his storied career.  His subpar performance at Leopardstown was an improvement over his previous race, when he was pulled up before entering the stretch.  With consecutive disappointing outings, it may be that age has caught up to the old champ.

Rich Ricci, Faugheen’s owner, said:  “We’ll have to keep carrying on.  Hopefully, he’s got one last good one in him.”

Winning the Champion Hurdle would be difficult for Faugheen, as no horse has ever attempted to win the race after a gap of 3 years.  Currently, the favorite is Yanworth followed by defending champion Buveur D’Air.

Faugheen’s most recent defeat was a considerable setback for his trainer extraordinaire Willie Mullins, although Mullins’ other horses did very well in the new Dublin Racing Festival.  Mullins has a strong hand at Cheltenham with five horses for the mega Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Cheltenham Festival brings together people from all strata of British and Irish society.  The full fields of races provide plenty of opportunity for upsets at attractive odds.

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