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Faugheen the Machine survives blunder to power to chase victory at Punchestown

Any doubts over whether the 'Machine' still had an engine were emphatically answered by the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen, who made a striking chasing debut at the age of 11 at Punchestown on Saturday.

The biggest question was about his jumping and some residual doubt does remain after this display. Over the first seven fences, Faugheen was immaculate in front, but a blunder at the first ditch on the final circuit nearly pitched Paul Townend out of the plate and it took the champion jockey a few strides to regain his irons.

Faugheen's confidence was noticeably affected and at the third-last he looked an unlikely winner, but between the final two fences he lit up again and sailed over the last before scooting seven and a half lengths clear of Walk Away.

"He jumped the first half-dozen fences grand but he just had a look at the ditch and changed his mind a bit. He was just a bit careful after that but I couldn't believe how he came back on the bridle after a peck at the third-last," said Townend.

"The way he picked up was what impressed me most. He will take loads from that. It's the first time he has raced over fences since he point-to-pointed, it's good to see that there is still a bit of fire in his belly."

Trainer Willie Mullins said: "He was brilliant until he made that mistake. It was probably the first ditch he's ever seen! He tried to do what he did over hurdles which was gallop out through it but he realises that he can't do that over fences.

"He measured everything after that rather than jump like he did the early fences but by the time he got to the last Paul was very happy with him."

He added: "He showed a nice turn of foot when he needed to and the engine certainly seemed to be still there when Paul asked him down to the last and after it."

Asked about future targets, Mullins said: "The Grade 1 at Limerick at Christmas could be ideal, but I'm happy for now that we got today out of the way and we'll just see how he comes out of it."

Paddy Power cut Faugheen to 16-1 (from 33) for the JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, while Boylesports introduced him at 14-1 for the same race and 16-1 for the RSA Novices' Chase.

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