• Racing/
  • Vautour Wins In Supreme Style

Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 110y

  • (4yo+, 2m 110y, Class 1, 18 runners)
  • Winner £68,340 2nd £25,644 3rd £12,840 4th £6,396 5th £3,216 6th £1,608
  • Going: Good to Soft, Good in places
  • Surface: Turf
Weighed In:
  • Winning time: 3m 46.40s
  • Off time: 13:30:30
  • Last Updated: March 11 2014, 14:36 GMT

Vautour made every post a winning one to land the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle by six lengths, providing trainer Willie Mullins with his fourth victory in the Cheltenham Festival curtain-raiser.

Vautour wings the last on his way to an impressive success
Vautour wings the last on his way to an impressive success

Ridden by Ruby Walsh, who made all on Champagne Fever when scoring 12 months ago, the 7/2 joint-favourite always looked to be going strongly.

He jumped brilliantly on the whole, making a slight mistake three from home, but he already had fellow pace-setters The Liquidator and Splash Of Ginge in trouble by then.

Stablemate Wicklow Brave set out in pursuit as Vautour stormed clear on turning into the straight, but he couldn't keep tabs on the winner and faded, with the Nicky Henderson-trained pair Josses Hill and Vaniteux running on for second and third respectively.

Sgt Reckless, last in the early stages of the race, flew home up the hill to claim fourth, with Wilde Blue Yonder a fine fifth.

The disappointment of the race was fellow joint-favourite Irving, who was in trouble some way out and could manage only a remote ninth.

Gilgamboa made a terrible mistake two flights from the finish and couldn't recover, trailing home in 13th.

Walsh said: "I rode him like a stayer, I wasn't going to drop him in, and he jumped brilliantly. I've been doubting him all week, but he's a serious horse. He was doing a hack all the way and he jumped super when I needed him."

Ruby Walsh "I rode him like a stayer, I wasn't going to drop him in, and he jumped brilliantly. I've been doubting him all week, but he's a serious horse. He was doing a hack all the way and he jumped super when I needed him."
Ruby Walsh

A relieved Mullins, who has a host of fine chances to win throughout the Festival, added: "That takes the pressure off a bit.

"He was very keen over the first and second hurdles, but I think Ruby accepted he was going to be keen and let him gallop and use his stride.

"The next thing it was like he was on a different set of rails to the other horses. That's what I found amazing. I thought if he could keep that up he was going to produce a performance like he did, and he did.

"It was just the way he cruised in front. It's extraordinary that a horse can have that sort of control in a Supreme for one that everyone had down as stayer.

"He made a mistake and I was worried that might knock the stuffing out of him, but he picked himself up and jumped the last.

"You could see him the whole way (up the run-in) idling - he wasn't even racing.

"He has the size and physique, and on that performance I think we can't wait to get over fences with him.

"I thought he was good, but I didn't expect that. He has treated them like a bunch of maidens.

"He'll get two-mile-four and three miles in time, and Punchestown would be the obvious place to go."

  • Ruby Walsh was on the go early on Tuesday morning...
  • to catch up with Hurricane Fly as the veteran bids for a third Champion Hurdle.
  • Will the reigning champion be taking the adulation of the crowd later in the afternoon?
  • Willie Mullins maintains his meticulous attention to detail.
  • Gordon Elliott's horses are also put through their paces.
  • The satchels are ready but how full will they be come 5.30 today?
  • It's thirsty work to find the winners of today's big handicaps...
  • ...as Prestbury Park braces itself for the greatest show on turf.
  • The runners start to make their way up the hill in the opener...
  • and Vautour storms clear of his rivals in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle...
  • Ruby Walsh cannot hide his delight as he heads back to the winners' enclosure.
  • Golden girl Dame Kelly Holmes was among the celebrities in attendance...
  • Champagne Fever attempts to make a bold bid in the Racing Post Arkle...
  • as they clear the fence infront of the stands...
  • and it's Western Warhorse provided a 33/1 shock in the two mile contest.
  • Michu was among the Swansea City team enjoying their day at Cheltenham.
  • Ma Filleule is committed for home by Nico de Boinville but the danger lurks to her left...
  • as Holywell sees out the trip best in the Baylis and Harding Affordable Luxury Handicap Chase.
  • and Richie McLernon salutes the crowd...
  • Racing at Cheltenham took place by Royal appointment...
  • Jezki and My Tent Or Yours battle out the finish to the Champion Hurdle.
  • The champion returns under a beaming Barry Geraghty...
  • and takes the adulation of a capacity crowd at Cheltenham.
  • Barry Geraghty is all smiles with the Champion Hurdle trophy.
  • Quevega (right) comes to press Glens Melody in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle.
  • and there's no mistaking the leading lady at Cheltenham after win number six.
  • Champions.
  • The winning trainer poses with his champion mare.
  • Henrietta Knight attended the race named in honour of former husband Terry Biddlecombe.
  • Midnight Prayer (right) comes to claim Merlin's Wish in the Amateur riders contest...
  • and gives Joshua Newman a day to remember.
  • Present View (left) won the final race on the card under Brendan Powell.
All the best images from Champion Hurdle day at Cheltenham.

Owner Rich Ricci said: "I'm completely made up by that.

"We always thought he was a good horse and since October I thought he was our best novice.

"The credit has to go to Willie and Ruby - they are the stars."

Henderson, delighted with the efforts of his pair, said: "They have both run fantastic races, but in a way it's annoying for them to run so well and get thumped like that.

"My Tent Or Yours, Darlan, Binocular and Sprinter Sacre have all been placed (in the Supreme) and come on for the race."

Alan Spence, owner Josses Hill, was equally delighted, said: "His scope was all wrong and Nicky said he could have done with another week, but he wouldn't have beaten the winner in another week. He'll go chasing next year."

Of Sgt Reckless, his trainer Mick Channon commented: "He was in a good position at the start but he got squeezed and lost his place. He stayed on from a mile back.

"We've been waiting for some decent ground and I don't see why he shouldn't run again somewhere."


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