Vautour was a lovely horse. Top quality. A dual Festival winner, having won the Supreme Novice’s in 2014 and the JLT the following year.
2016 was going to be Vautour’s year. Connections announced that Vautour was heading towards the Gold Cup and I for one was convinced he would win it, and backed him ante post accordingly. Even a week before the big race, owner Rich Ricci was clear that Vautour was only heading for the Gold Cup. And then, on the Tuesday, the first day of the meeting, the Mullins camp stated that Vautour was being rerouted to the Ryanair Chase.
Of course he won the Ryanair with ease. Commentator Simon Holt described the exciting moment when jockey Ruby Walsh accelerated clear of Road to Riches as one that only “a brilliant horse” could do, and you can see the business end of the race here.
So he won the Ryanair – a very important race. Well of course he did. He was a horse of the highest class who always ran brilliantly at Cheltenham. The trainer reported that he hadn’t worked well in the run up to the Festival. This Guardian article doesn’t hide the embarrassment felt by connections. Would he have won the Gold Cup? We’ll never know and my guess is yes he would.
For me the whole thing left something of a sour taste. It was all so unnecessary. I felt that connections had treated the racing public with disdain. Credit to Gigginstown who this year have been clear all along that Samcro was going to the Ballymore and weren’t interested in suggestions of changing to the Supreme. Let’s hope we can have more of that. If you are going to talk of a target, then be transparent and stay consistent. Everyone will appreciate that there are choices and other factors to consider. But in this case it was the adamant nature of pointing Vautour to the Gold Cup only to change direction at the very last minute which was so infuriating.
And for the horse himself we never did get to see him in the Gold Cup, as an unfortunate training accident meant he was lost later that year. Such a shame, as he really could have been an all time great.