Just occasionally a performance has the ability to take your breath away. For many jump racing fans, the sight of a chaser in full flight is unparalleled. Yesterday we were fortunate to witness the birth of a new chasing superstar.
Vautour destroyed a quality field to win the JLT Novices’ Chase. Leading from the drop of the tape, the horse galloped and jumped his rivals into submission. It was a truly devastating performance that left Ruby Walsh almost speechless. It’s clear that both jockey and trainer think the World of this horse. Since his win in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last year, both have heaped praise on him and with a wealth of talent in the yard, he has appeared to be the shining light.
Struggling to contain his joy, Ruby spoke after the win: “I thought leaving here last year we had a very special horse and in fairness to Willie he had his eye on one target and he's nailed him for it. He has it all, I'm taken by him. It'll be some summer dreaming about this fella."
Willie Mullins was just as enthusiastic when he spoke, saying: “I thought it was a spectacular performance. We thought there was a lot left to get him up to where he was last year and we've worked him hard. He's got so much ability. We'll definitely go down the Gold Cup route."
What also caught the eye was how the chasing four finished the race. Apache Stronghold and Valseur Lido galloped all the way to the line, closely chased by Irish Saint and Ptit Zig. These horses were not stopping and they were staying on strongly. They are clearly very, very good horses, but they were simply running against a horse in his own league, a superior equine being.
So what of the future? It seems clear that connections believe him to be a Gold Cup horse and he will be trained as such. Mullins confirmed after the race that he is suited by a sounder surface and chances are that he could prove to be a Kauto Star type of horse. Nicholls’ great chaser had the speed and class to win a Tingle Creek, King George and Gold Cup, all in the same season.
Some people hate such comparisons but the thought of Vautour versus Don Poli will inevitably ignite memories of Kauto versus Denman.
If they both stay fit, and that’s always a huge if, the chances are that Don Poli will be aimed at the Lexus Chase in proper winter ground, whilst Vautour heads for Kempton and a thrilling King George. Such clashes will no doubt split opinion and after such a performance yesterday many will side with the Ricci star. But Gigginstown’s RSA winner looked a powerful stayer with plenty of class. Racing fans should not forget that the Gold Cup is run at a trip of just over 3m2f.
Paddy Power has the pair joint-favourites for next year’s Blue Riband, and despite the most breath-taking performance from Vautour yesterday, chances are that the bookies have it about right.
Of course today it’s the turn of this year’s Gold Cup nominee’s to battle for the major prize. The likes of Silviniaco Conti, Djakadam and Many Clouds will hope that this is their time to shine on the greatest of all Jump racing stages.