Regular readers and twitter followers will know I believe that Vautour is a superstar. Saturday sees his first flash in the constellation inhabited by the brightest of our steeplechasers, and I expect him to emerge with a glow which will light the NH scene for the next two or three years, granted soundness.
Many thought the same as I do in the immediate aftermath of his JLT win where the atmosphere was closer to post-coital than post-race, such was the admiration for what had just been achieved. But a less than stellar performance at Ascot on his seasonal debut seems to have lost him many fans. What the fickle seem to forget is that Vautour’s master craftsman of a trainer, Willie Mullins, does not turn out perfectly primed horses every time. Their training regime is formed from the view through a riflescope fixed dead centre on the Cheltenham Festival. In readying them for other targets, the ammo magazine is only as full as it needs to be.
His Ascot run was far from disastrous: it was no JLT, but he was hardly thrashed home by Ruby. His only other 2 runs in England have been at the Festival where he dotted up in the Supreme (all the more meritorious coming from a horse born to be a steeplechaser, not a hurdler). Then there was that sublime JLT victory where the true joy was in the wonder of what he had not unleashed in that wonderfully athletic display of pure power.
Outside of his three races in England, Vautour has been odds against just once, mopping up events mostly at long odds on with, I suspect, just a half-full magazine. Yes, he had a failure last Boxing day when beaten by Clarcam, but he was plainly not right. It took his trainer quite some time to get him to where he wanted him, and although he won in January, Mullins had to put a monstrous amount of work into him to get him spot on for the Festival
The 2015 prep taught Mullins just how hard he sometimes needs to be on this horse to get him firing all his rocket boosters, and I think he’ll come to Kempton in festival form, before being let down by his trainer then built up again for the Gold Cup.
Many doubters seem to question his stamina. Everything about the way he finished off the JLT (20 furlongs) says to me he gets 3 miles anywhere. I’m no student of breeding, but am told there is nothing in his bloodline which suggests he will not stay. His grandsire on his dam’s side is Dom Pasquini who sired Dom Alco who got stock like Neptune Collonges and Silviniaco Conti.
Had Vautour been confined so far to two miles – an Azertyuiop type – I could understand the doubts over the KG, but 2m 4f in a hot festival race where he cruises past the line and is still absolutely full of himself coming down the walkway…where is the reason for stamina doubts with this horse?
As to his jumping to the left, which he did more than once at Ascot, jockey and trainer say it is not an issue; that’s good enough for me.
Some time ago, I advised backing Vautour at 14/1 to land the King George/Gold Cup double; I can find nobody betting on that now, but astoundingly, Vautour can be backed at 7/1 for the Gold Cup, and I suggest you take some of that as well as betting him to win on Saturday. There’s plenty of 3/1 about and you should take that, as I think there will be money for him on the day and he might even start favourite.
As ever, the usual warning, ante-post betting means your cash is lost if your selection does not turn up. Also, keen as I am on this horse, I’ll only stake on him what I can afford to lose, and, if you decide to bet him, you should do the same.
Good luck and happy Christmas