Vauban paid a handsome compliment to Pied Piper with a smooth success in the Racing TV Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Beaten on his only previous start by Gordon Elliott’s Pied Piper, who has subsequently bolted up at Cheltenham, this time Elliott took him on with Fil Dor.
Fil Dor had done nothing wrong over hurdles prior to this Grade One assignment, winning all three starts including a Grade Two over Christmas.
Understandably he was sent off the 6-5 favourite with Willie Mullins’ Vauban a 9-4 chance on just his second start.
Vauban’s jumping could have been slicker, but when Paul Townend moved him into contention on the turn from home, he made Fil Dor looked decidedly one-paced.
The Rich Ricci-owned Vauban pulled three lengths clear and is now 11-4 second-favourite for the Triumph Hurdle with Betfair behind 5-2 market leader Pied Piper. Fil Dor was pushed out to 6-1.
A jubilant Ricci said: “When I saw what Pied Piper did I was hoping he’d come on and there’s more to come, I think. That was very impressive for a four-year-old.”
Mullins – who was on the mark in the opening race of the Dublin Racing Festival with Minella Cocooner – said: “His form, after his run in Punchestown, was looking very good. I thought if Paul got him jumping today he could improve hugely on his Punchestown form, which he did.
“It’s tremendous to win another Grade One. We’re delighted he won today, put it all together and he learned and got his experience today. It’s a nice way to break your maiden.
“I don’t know if many horses have broken their maiden in a Grade One, but it’s a nice achievement for him anyhow.
“We thought he was a nice horse when we bought him. We just had to teach him how to jump and we eventually got around to that.
“It’s tremendous for Rich and Paul and all connections.”
Townend added: “He’s a horse we like. I was disappointed I got beaten on him the first day – we might have made up for that today.”