Can 12-year-old Faugheen win at the Cheltenham festival?

Article by

Faugheen continued his resurgence with victory in Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday. The 2015 Champion Hurdle winner saw off stablemate Easy Game in a rousing finish to put himself in line for a crack at the Cheltenham Festival. Faugheen is unbeaten in 3 attempts over fences this year. Now a 12-year-old, surely the clock is ticking against Faugheen, is it possible that the evergreen 12-year-old will succeed at the Cheltenham Festival?

Image result for faugheen horse

How have 12-year-olds fared at the Cheltenham Festival?

Records show that 25 horses aged 12 years and older have been successful at the Cheltenham Festival.

Beau Caprice12Supreme Novices Hurdle1966
Cryptical13National Hunt Challenge Cup1928
Ardvasar12National Hunt Challenge Cup1925
Skymas12Queen Mother Champion Chase1977
Spot Thedifference12Cross Country Chase2005
Native Jack 12Cross Country Chase2006
A New Story12Cross Country Chase2010
Willie Wumpkins13Pertemps Network Final1981
Willie Wumpkins12Pertemps Network Final1980
Zarane13Stayers Hurdle1927
Foyle Fisherman12Brown Advisory Merriebelle Stable Plate1991
Waggoners Walk12Kim Muir Handicap Chase1981
The Package12Kim Muir Handicap Chase2015
Approval13County Hurdle1959
Silver Fame12Gold Cup1951
What A Myth12Gold Cup1969
Greenwood13Foxhunters Chase1950
Merry13Foxhunters Chase1953
Earthmover13Foxhunters Chase2004
College Master12Foxhunters Chase1962
Woodside Terrace12Foxhunters Chase1965
Real Rascal12Foxhunters Chase1975
Three Counties12Foxhunters Chase1989
Casbah12Grand Annual1979
Uncle Ernie12Grand Annual1997
Croco Bay12Grand Annual 2019

On the bare numbers, it appears age is not a particular barrier to Festival success. 25 horses aged 12 years and over have been successful. 7 of those wins have been recorded by 13-year-olds. Not surprisingly the Foxhunters Chase, a race restricted to Hunter Chasers, racehorses in the latter stages of their racing career is responsible for nearly a quarter of the winners (7 winners). In Addition, the fairly newly established Cross Country Chase, first run in 2005, has had 3 winners. Like the Foxhunters, the Cross County Chase is contested by horses at the veteran stage, so no great surprise here.

For the latest veteran winner, you only need to turn the clock back to last year. Croco Bay, defied his advancing years to win the competitive Grand Annual at the price of 66/1.

Willie Wumpkins was a remarkable horse. He completed a hat-trick in the Pertemps Network Final, winning as an 11-year-old in 1979, then as a 12-year-old in 1980 and then again as a 13-year-old in 1981. The Pertemps is one of the most fiercely competitive handicaps in the National Hunt calendar. To win it 3 years on the bounce must go down as one of the greatest training performances of all time?

Faugheen The Machine

While Faugheen has had plenty of racing and experience he is still technically a novice over fences with just the 3 runs to date. At this stage, he holds 3 Cheltenham Festival entries, the National Hunt Challenge Cup, the RSA Novices Chase and the Marsh Novices Chase. 

Looking at the past winners of these 3 races, the National Hunt Challenge Cup has yielded 2 winners aged 12, but you need to go as far back as 1925 and 1928. The oldest winner of the RSA Novice Chase was Birthlaw, aged 11 back in 1946. As for the Marsh Novices Chase, first run in 2011, the oldest winners have been aged 7.

Clearly, it is possible to win at the Cheltenham Festival at the grand old age of 12 but, history is against him. Not that Faugheen knows that. 

Undoubtedly if Faugheen could pull off the improbable it would be one of the great Cheltenham moments. Right up there with Dessie splashing through the Cheltenham mud, Dawn Runs Gold Cup and the remarkable comeback of Sprinter Sacre. Cheltenham is about dreams, can ‘Faugheen The Machine’ cement his place in the history books and add to those great Festival moments?