After an exceptional start to his National Hunt flat-racing career, in which he won his first four races by a combined margin of more than 24 lengths, Facile Vega made his highly anticipated jumps racing debut earlier this month.
There has been plenty of hype surrounding the five-year-old, with his aforementioned performances on the flat circuit not the only reason. He is the son of six-time Cheltenham Festival heroine Quevaga – and there are many fans and pundits alike who believe Facile Vega has the potential to experience similar success to that of his mother.
That opinion appears to be justified – with Facile Vega dominating in his first hurdling outing at Fairyhouse – winning by 14 lengths from the second-placed An Mhi in a Division II fixture. Unsurprisingly, he entered the race as the clear favourite in the horse racing odds, garnering a short price of 1/9.
When proceedings began, the Willie Mullins-trained thoroughbred immediately took to the lead. It was one-way traffic from that point onwards, as Facile Vega continued to build on his ascendency as the two-mile affair progressed. Jockey Paul Townend made his push with three hurdles remaining, before putting the foot down over the final 300 yards to finish first past the post comfortably.
Mullins was ecstatic with his horse’s debut, noting that Facile Vega looked like a natural in the jumps racing arena.
“I was very happy how he jumped for a horse first time out and making his own running. He hurdled like a handicapper and it was a fantastic performance,” Mullins said.
“I’m not sure what happened at the third-last and Paul thought something just caught his eye. He just gave him a squeeze and he took off up the straight.
“We’ll see how he is after this and maybe look at Christmas.”
Given his strong showing, Facile Vega has opened as the 5/4 favourite to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. He won’t be without his fair share of competition however, with the likes of Jet Powered and Grangeclare West also tipped to take part in the two-and-a-half-mile contest.
Let’s take a look at the two aforementioned horses’ form and how they could challenge Facile Vega come race day.
After winning his debut in December of last year by an impressive eight lengths at Borris House, a significant amount of time passed before we got to see Jet Powered run again. After undergoing wind surgery, the Nicky Henderson-trained horse had a 348-day break before returning late last month for the National Hunt Maiden Hurdle at Newbury.
The five-year-old picked up from where he left off, dominating the 12-strong field to reign supreme by 11 lengths. Jet Powered currently sits at 6/1 to come away with the win at Cheltenham.
Undefeated at the time of writing, six-year-old Grangeclare West has been impressive across his three career wins. After being victorious in his debut at Lingstown, the Willie Mullins-trained thoroughbred continued his rich vein of form with wins at Punchestown and Navan by nine and 13 lengths respectively.
His noticeable improvement with each race is a promising sign for Mullins, and if he can display the kind of finishing speed at Cheltenham as he did at Punchestown and Navan – he may give his stablemate a run for his money. At 10/1, he could be good value for money.