Vautour registers impressive debut success over fences at Navan

Milsean and Lyrical Theatre complete a bumper weekend haul for top trainer Willie Mullins

Ascot got Faugheen on Saturday: 24 hours later Navan got Vautour: Thurles on Thursday can look forward to getting Un De Sceaux and Willie Mullins's only headache appears to be not having enough days in the week to run the most enviably deep pool of talent in the sport.

After Vautour’s sauntering debut success over fences, the champion trainer was loathe to outline firm plans for either him or Faugheen, almost appearing to be teasing out logistical arrangements on the spot.

“There’s very little racing between now and Christmas and basically you have to run these horses when you can. We don’t have the same opportunities as they have in England in terms of variety of tracks and distance. We have to just get them out,” said Mullins who confirmed another unbeaten novice, Un De Sceaux should appear during the week.

Five winners

Mullins, who saddled five winners from six runners on Saturday, added three from five on Sunday and in Faugheen has a clear



Hurdle favourite. In Vautour he also surely has as fine a chasing prospect as has been seen in Ireland for quite some time.

Only the most pernickety of judges could describe Vautour’s fencing debut as anything but faultless, and even if he got a little close to the last ditch, there was a valid excuse of racing into a low-lying sun.

“On his own in front, and facing into that sun, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt on that,” Mullins said. “That looked very good to me and I’d imagine he will improve a good bit. He looked a bit big beforehand.”

Vautour continues to dispute Arkle favouritism with Un De Sceaux but some bookmakers reckon the JLT will be his Cheltenham target and cut him to 3-1 favourite for that.

Earlier Mullins saddled another 2-11 winner when Milsean worked hard to make a winning debut over hurdles, although in the process jockey Bryan Cooper picked up a four -day ban for improper riding after an incident between the last two flights with the runner up Snow Falcon. There was no such drama in the Listed finale as Lyrical Theatre cruised to a third bumper victory.

Monster gamble

Vautour’s appearance relegated even Balbriggan’s


Troytown victory, and the monster gamble brought off in the process, to something of a supporting role.

But Gordon Elliott landed a lucrative big-race double, with Free Expression also keeping his unbeaten record in the Grade Two Monksfield Novice Hurdle.

Available at 20-1 at one stage over the weekend, Balbriggan opened at 11-1 on-track and wound up a 4-1 favourite, making all under Kevin Sexton to keep punters happy.

The grey is owned by cross-channel football agents, Willie McKay and Lee Power, and Elliott said: "They couldn't believe the 20-1 and I'd say the two lads had a few quid on, although I couldn't believe the 4-1 when I saw it. He's in all those staying chases."

Paddy Power have cut Balbriggan to 12-1 for next month's Welsh National. The newly-promoted Grade One Slaney Hurdle at Naas in early-January looks like Free Expression's next target after he overcame inexperience to beat the 40-1 shot Shantou Flyer.

“He’s a big baby and was all over the place but we think he’s nice,” Elliott said of a horse who is now as low as 16-1 for Cheltenham’s Neptune.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column