As the summer rumbles on across the UK and Ireland, National Hunt racing fans are continuing the countdown to the Autumn and the start of the new campaign in earnest. We are already turning our attention to the Cheltenham Festival for 2015 by focusing on those horses who are set to star at the biggest meeting of them all. Last season we saw a number of new superstars emerge on the sport and one of those was certainly Vautour, who stormed to a famous success in the Supreme Novices Hurdle last March.
The Willie Mullins trained horse galloped a classy field into the ground that day to win the Supreme but where will he end up next March? Vautour is the latest young star to feature in our 'How Do You Solve A Problem Like....' series and he is another one with more that one option ahead of him at the moment. We have been assessing the potential Cheltenham options for Vautour for the upcoming campaign with the Mullins horse currently featuring in a number of ante-post markets for the Festival.
Champion Hurdle - Vautour @ 7/1 with Betfred
Immediately after Vautour won the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham back in March, talk of a Champion Hurdle bid in 2015 was ignited for the horse. He seemed to love the Prestbury Park experience as he skipped over the hurdles with great enthusiasm with Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci surely tempted to keep him as a two mile hurdler for some time yet. That is even more of a possibility with the same trainer looking to replace dual Champion Hurdler, Hurricane Fly, who appears to be past his best and facing an uphill struggle to win the race for a third time as an 11-year-old in 2015.
Vautour remains unbeaten since arriving in the care of Willie Mullins and the majority of his winning has been done down at two miles which is also in his favour here. His Supreme success proved he had the pace and the jumping ability to run well in the Champion Hurdle and with that in mind he is being well backed in that ante-post market currently.
Some believe that Vautor is the best two mile hurdler in training but plenty of others believe that he is not even the best in his own yard, which could see him re-routed away from the Champion Hurdle. Faugheen won the Neptune Novices Hurdle over 2m5f at Cheltenham back in March but proceeded to blow a good field away down at 2m at the Punchestown Festival at Grade 1 level. That performance from Faugheen, who has the same trainer and owner as Vautour, put him right in the Champion Hurdle mix and that means Messrs Mullins and Ricci have a big decision on his hands when it comes to these two horses.
Arkle Chase - Vautour @ 11/2 with Bet Victor
General wisdom at the moments suggest that one of Faugheen and Vautour will go to the Champion Hurdle, leaving the other one to embark on a chasing career. If that is Vautour, the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham in March will almost certainly be the aim, for which he is currently available at a short price in the ante-post market. He proved when winning the Supreme that two miles at Prestbury Park suits him down the ground and few would be surprised to see him winning the Arkle come March 2015.
Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci won the Supreme in 2012 with Champagne Fever before he was pipped into second place in the Arkle last season and they could be tempted to improve on that place with this horse. Vautour has shown to be a rock solid jumper so far which would lend itself to a chasing career and there is no doubt that Vautour has the class to win an Arkle.
Punters backing Vautour at this stage for an Arkle success will need to be wary though with a chasing career by no means certain at this early stage. The aforementioned Faugheen is likely to come into consideration for this race, while Willie Mullins also has Un De Sceaux in his yard, who showed himself as a top two mile hurdler last season and could yet make up into a chaser in the future. It should also be note that Vautour has won over 2m4f during his career which could mean he is considered for the Jewson next March although that appears unlikely for such a prestigious horse.
The future of Vautour remains very much up in the air at the moment with Willie Mullins and Rich Ricci set for some big decisions. The same pair also have Faugheen to consider with one of them almost definitely set for a Champion Hurdle tilt next season but which one remains a mystery. It had been assumed that Vautour would be the most likely to go down that route but the performance of Faugheen at Punchestown has thrown those plans up in the air.
Judging by the current odds, Vautour is a shorter price for the Arkle than he is for the Champion Hurdle which could be a slight indication as to where the majority of punters are putting their money. Either way, Vautour is a horse with bundles of talent and whether it is the Arkle or the Champions Hurdle, he will be right in the frame for Cheltenham glory once again in March if he can remain fit and healthy.