Friday was Ryanair Hurdle day at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, the day Faugheen was expected to thrill the crowd following his recent successful return to action in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. It wasn’t to be, however, as the 2/11f was pulled up by jockey Paul Townend before the second last hurdle to audible gasps of shock from the crowd.
Gordon Elliott, who has had an incredible week at the South Co. Dublin racetrack, won the Grade 1 event with the six year-old Mick Jazz (14/1), the second part of a Grade 1 double for the Co. Meath handler, having won the previous race the Neville Hotels Novice Chase with the Gigginstown House Stud-owned Shattered Love (10/1).
The hot favourite Faugheen, who missed almost two years on the track due to injury, took up his usual front-running position but soon had his stable companion Cilaos Emery challenging the 2015 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner for the lead, before then taking up the running at the front of the five-runner field.
When the nine-year old Faugheen pulled up, Cilaos Emery lead the eventual winner, the Davy Russell-ridden Mick Jazz, before the latter accounted for the Willie Mullins horse on the run to the line.
The first part of the Elliott Grade 1 double came when Shattered Love provided his trainer with a 1-2 in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase, when he held off the challenge of Jury Duty up the home straight.