Hot favourite Vauban delivered in the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle race where, although not always fluid, he held fellow French bred Fil Dor and Pied Piper with such ease that his owner Rich Ricci declared him a possible runner for this year’s Melbourne Cup. Vauban, who was bred in France by Philippe Decouz and Olivier de Seyssel, is a listed winner at Vichy and his new owner said: “We bought him as a dual campaigner so I wouldn’t mind running him on the Flat. David Casey (Willie Mullin’s assistant trainer) gave me a big hug after the race and said Ebor and then on to Melbourne. Certainly with that performance – he jumped much better today – the Champion Hurdle has to be our plans. We’ll have a chat but I wouldn’t mind keeping him on the go for a little bit. He’s lightly raced, he’s a Listed winner in France, he’d be a lot of fun to have on the Flat, wouldn’t he?”
Both of his breeders were present at Cheltenham to witness his impressive performance and Philippe Decouz said: “I think he is very versatile and more than capable of winning a good race on the flat. What he did today was great. He does make little mistakes but I think that is because he doesn’t pay enough attention.” It is the first time that Philippe Decouz, who actually trained Vauban when he won the Listed Prix Frederic de Lagrange at Vichy, visited Cheltenham and he couldn’t stop smiling when he said: “First time at Cheltenham, first runner and first Grade 1 winner. So now we go home and stop. No, only kidding. It’s absolutely fabulous. He is such an outstanding horse.”
Vauban is by Galiway out of Waldfest and he explains: “I have about twelve broodmares and three of them in association with Olivier de Seyssel. Waldfest is quite an extraordinary mare. Vauban is her first foal and we didn’t have a lot of luck after that as her foal by Zarak died and then we had some fertility issues. But she then gave birth to a nice American Devil foal and only a few days ago she produced a lovely filly by Jimmy Two Times and she will now visit Masar as we are going to try and get a Derby winner. We are ambitious, I know. But we don’t breed for commercial reasons, we breed to get to the top.” And he laughs when he adds: “It might be the Derby in the provinces, but the goal is to get a good flat horse and I think this mare is the one who can do it for us!”
Vauban was magnificent, but let’s also point out the good performance by Fil Dor, bred by Antonia Devin at the Haras de Mesnil. A son of Doctor Dino out of La Turbale, he was only beaten 2 ½ lengths by Vauban and looks certain to win a Grade 1 in the near future.