Willie Mullins turns Cheltenham Festival winner into favourite for Melbourne Cup

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Willie Mullins: has set sights on Melbourne Cup (Image: PA)
Willie Mullins: has set sights on Melbourne Cup (Image: PA)

Willie Mullins has one of the world’s biggest Flat races in his sights after converting Cheltenham Festival winner Vauban into a top dual-purpose horse.

Vauban won the Triumph Hurdle in 2022 and finished fourth in the Champion Hurdle behind Constitution Hill in March this year. Now the Cheltenham Festival’s all-time leading trainer has identified the five-year-old as a prime candidate for the Melbourne Cup in November, known in Australia as ‘the race that stops a nation’.

Mullins came close to winning the race, worth nearly £4 million, with Max Dynamite who finished half a length second to 100-1 shot Prince Of Penzance, ridden by history maker Michelle Payne, under Frankie Dettori in 2015 and third two years later.

Vauban needed to be placed in the first three in a Group race to qualify for the 2m handicap but he ran out a comfortable winner of the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes over 1m4f at Naas.

He added to his previous Ascot Stakes success by landing the prize by a length and a half under jockey Colin Keane. The Susannah Ricci-owned Vauban was cut to 5-1 for the November 7 Flemington feature by British bookmakers.

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Mullins’s assistant David Casey said: “Colin said it was very simple. He had to run and finish in the first three to tick that box to pass the ballot for the Melbourne Cup.

Willie Mullins turns Cheltenham Festival winner into favourite for Melbourne CupVauban: Triumph Hurdle winner is favourite for the Melbourne Cup (PA)

“He’s done that now and Willie will decide in the next few weeks what he is going to do with him.”

Casey is a veteran of previous Cup campaigns for the Mullins team. He added: “It’s a super race meeting and a brilliant carnival and definitely one everyone should have on the bucket list.

“Vauban is definitely a better hurdler than Max Dynamite was. Max was a Group 2-winning Flat horse as well. There wouldn’t be much between them on Flat racings.

“Hopefully he goes there with a good chance. If we can get him there in one piece we’d be delighted that he would be competitive.”

Jon Lees

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