Vautour brilliant in JLT win
Last year’s Supreme Novices Hurdle winner, Vautour enjoyed a second straight victory at the Cheltenham Festival, putting in a special round of jumping to take the JLT Novices Chase. It was another victory for the Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh/ Rich Ricci combination and it was arguably the most impressive performance of the week, streaking clear with ears pricked to score by 15 lengths.
The brilliant 6yo made nearly all of the running under Walsh and put in some amazing jumps on the way round. He had disappointed on just his second start over fences at Leopardstown at Christmas but was much better last time at the same track. He proved to be on a different level today, however, handing out an effortless beating to top class horses in the 2m4f contest.
Apache Stronghold, who had put in a messy round of jumping out the back, looked like he may put in a big challenge as he loomed up on the outside before the turn for home. But Walsh merely kicked his mount off the bend and soon went a couple of lengths clear in effortless fashion. Apache Stronghold eventually finished second after a ding dong battle with the winner’s stablemate, Valseur Lido.
A slightly speechless Walsh, said afterwards: “People were crabbing him. He wasn’t right at Christmas but I thought he was much better at Leopardstown after that. From the first morning we schooled him, Willie asked me what did I think and I said he was too good. The second time we schooled him, he made a mistake and he hasn’t looked back since then.
“We thought leaving here last year that he was a very special horse and in fairness to Willie, he has had one target and he nailed him for it.”
A delighted Mullins added: “A stunning performance from him. After his Supreme win last year I thought it was the best performance of the week but everyone was coming home talking of Faugheen. This is a machine. It has taken me all year to get him to this pitch.
“I was very hard on him for the last three weeks but I had to be hard on him to get him back to the form I seen him in last year.”
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