Vauban faces Yorkshire Cup test as Flat foray continues

Vauban will look put Melbourne Cup disappointment behind him and tee up a return to Royal Ascot in Friday’s Boodles Yorkshire Cup.

Willie Mullins’ top-class hurdler pulverised his rivals in the Copper Horse Handicap at the summer showpiece meeting last year before proving his worth at Pattern level in the Group Three Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown.

The Rich Ricci-owned six-year-old was subsequently sent off favourite to win Australia’s biggest race three months later, but was a spent force early in the home straight in the hands of Ryan Moore and passed the post a well beaten 14th.

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Having been given plenty of time to recover from his trip across the globe, Vauban reappears in the Group Three feature on day three of the Dante Festival, with the trainer’s son and assistant Patrick hoping he can prove himself a genuine Gold Cup contender on the Knavesmire.

“Vauban had a nice break after going to Australia, he’s in good shape and hopefully he’s ready to start another Flat campaign,” said Mullins.

“Melbourne didn’t happen for him last year unfortunately, but he’s ready to start back, probably on the road to Ascot and maybe a crack at the Gold Cup.

“This looks an ideal place to start, it’s a very competitive race and there’s a few of them that look quite closely matched.

“We’re hoping for a good run and we think it will bring him forward.”

Tower Of London impressed in Dubai
Tower Of London impressed in Dubai (PA)

William Buick will be on board Vauban for the first time, with Moore committed to partner Tower Of London for Aidan O’Brien.

The four-year-old has enjoyed a productive winter abroad having landed the Red Sea Turf Handicap in Riyadh and the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan.

Moore told Betfair: “I always thought a lot of him at three but he is really blossoming now. He shaped very much like a Group One-winning stayer in waiting when winning at Meydan last time, so I’d hope and expect he will be going close here, even under his 3lb penalty.

“It’s a tough Group Two, and he will need to progress again to win this, but this is an exciting horse for the season.”

Last year’s Yorkshire Cup hero Giavellotto returns to defend his crown for Marco Botti after finishing behind Tower Of London on his last two starts.

“This has been his target since Dubai and we are very happy with his condition,” said Botti.

“A mile and six is the perfect trip for him and he has run two of his best races at York, but we are hoping the ground won’t change much as we wouldn’t want to run on soft ground.

“Tower Of London looks the main danger, and we’d been hoping he would be taking a different route, but he now has to give us weight whereas we’ve been giving him weight, so hopefully we can reverse the form.”

Giavellotto also ran with real credit at York when third in the Lonsdale Cup during the Ebor Festival, involved in a thrilling finish with Andrew Balding’s Coltrane and Wathnan Racing’s Ascot Gold Cup hero Courage Mon Ami.

Gregory (left) was a Royal Ascot winner in 2023
Gregory (left) was a Royal Ascot winner in 2023 (John Walton/PA)

This time it is Wathnan’s Gregory in the line-up as last year’s Queen’s Vase winner and St Leger fifth attempts to announce himself as a player in the staying division.

“John and Thady (Gosden) seem very happy with his work and he’s done some nice work this spring,” said Richard Brown, racing adviser for the owners.

“It’s obviously his first run of the season and I’m sure he will come on for it, but we look forward to seeing him back and hopefully the ground is on the quicker side and he’s better on top of the ground.

“He’s come to hand a little quicker than Courage Mon Ami and is ready to run, so he will start here. We’ll get over this hurdle first and then worry about Ascot afterwards.”

William Haggas saddles both Naqeeb and stable stalwart Hamish, with the latter attempting to extend his impressive five-race winning sequence.

The eight-year-old will recommence his rivalry with Al Qareem having accounted for Karl Burke’s runner the last twice.

However, just a neck separated the pair at Newbury in the John Porter Stakes last month, with Al Qareem’s pilot Clifford Lee eyeing turning the tables on the Knavesmire.

He said: “He’s a lovely horse and very consistent as well. All he does is gallop and since Ascot last October he’s only been beaten by Hamish, who as we all know is pretty much unbeatable when he gets his conditions.

“We are hoping Al Qareem will strip fitter for that run, and the extra two furlongs of the Yorkshire Cup are in his favour too. There are a couple ahead of him on the official ratings, but he’s so consistent that he looks sure to go well.”

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