Tuesday 12 December 2017

Cheltenham 2015: Vautour looks made of Gold for next year's festival

Ruby Walsh on Vautour celebrates winning the 13.30 JLT Novices' Chase
Ruby Walsh on Vautour celebrates winning the 13.30 JLT Novices' Chase

Rarely has anyone witnessed Ruby Walsh as animated after a winner like he was yesterday following Vautour’s rout in the JLT Novice Chase on the penultimate day of the Cheltenham Festival.

For a man who has had 45 winners at the Cheltenham Festival and three Grade Ones on Tuesday, yesterday he was just buzzing.

People who were at Newbury the day Walsh partnered Kauto Star to beat Foreman in 2004 recalled a similar reaction from the multiple champion jockey and you get the impression that he thinks Vautour could one day reach the dizzy heights of that dual Gold Cup winner.

“He’s the dream racehorse,” Walsh told The Herald. “He’s the best horse we have.”

A massive statement from a jockey who had on Tuesday won the Champion Hurdle on the unbeaten Faugheen.

“He jumped, travelled, his acceleration, his pace... You can ask David Casey, he’s been saying it for weeks. He’s a very, very good horse.”

When powering away up the hill 12 months ago when winning the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, it was widely expected that Vautour was going to go on to contest a Champion Hurdle this season but connections opted to go down that route with Faugheen and all decisions were well and truly justified this week.

“He’s a very, very good horse, and in fairness to Willie, when we talked about it last year about what was going to happen (this season), we only had one plan in our mind for this horse.

“I have always maintained he wanted a trip - he won the Supreme by purely staying and if we took him to the right distance he would be even better. Today over two and a half miles he jumped like a gazelle and quickened up so impressively off the bend – I would say it was flawless.”

Willie Mullins was also full of praise for the six-year-old who earned quotes of 6/1 with BoyleSports for next season’s Gold Cup.

“That was what I was hoping I could get out of him,” Mullins said afterwards having previously admitted after his two previous runs that there was more to come.

“I thought he was the best horse I had in Cheltenham last year and when Faugheen won the Champion Hurdle I still thought this fella was better and he could be – he could be anything.

“He’s a fantastic horse and I’d imagine we’ll go down the Gold Cup route with him.

“Faugheen was very good but Vautour won by 15 lengths – he destroyed a top field. You can’t get much better than that I think.”

The sight of Noel Meade applauding Vautour back into the winners’ enclosure with a broad smile on his face was testament to not only how happy he was with Apache Stronghold but an appreciation of just how good Vautour was.

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