Vauban (6-4 Favourite) hands trainer Willie Mullins a third victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle. It is a second success in the Grade One contest for jockey Paul Townend and a first for owners Rich and Susannah Ricci.
Mullins, the most successful trainer of all-time at The Festival, has now trained 84 Festival winners overall and six in 2022.
It was a 22nd Festival victory for jockey Paul Townend and his fourth of 2022.
For owners Rich and Susannah Ricci, this was their first success at the 2022 Festival and their 19th overall Festival victory.
Vauban is the 11th favourite in 58 runnings at Cheltenham to win the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Winning trainer Willie Mullins said:
“He has a lot of ability and his Flat racing experience helped him. He could be a nice horse for the future. It is just inexperience (with his jumping), but he has got so much speed. “It was a great decision by Rich (Ricci) as I wanted to keep him as a novice for next season but he said no, we are going racing this season, so it is one up for him on that.
“He is the type of horse we could bring back to go Flat racing later on in his career but I think we will pursue this career first.
“He has had a Flat racing season now and he has now had a jump racing season he might want a break before going flat racing so we might leave it for another year.
“I’d imagine that (Champion Hurdle) is the obvious place to go.
“He was able to win that even without having the experience (over hurdles) that he should have going into that type of race.
“You could see that I think he was looking at everything. Paul said when he hit the front, he just started looking at everything including the cameras on the landing side of the last and he just lost impetus, but he picked up quickly again and went on and he won like a good horse. You would have to think of the Champion Hurdle, and he has a great flat rating and I think he hasn’t got to near the top on the flat yet.
“I think he will just improve with age and experience. With the flat rating he has he could contest those Cup races, I think.
“What we normally do is hurdle them the first season, give them their summer over the hurdle them the next season and flat race after that.
“The Easterbys used to go to Chester and York (with Champion Hurdle winners). Champion Hurdle winners in the previous generation used to go flat racing because they were top class flat horses but those horses are bought now to go to Australia or Dubai, so it is very hard for jump trainers nowadays to get top quality flat horses like him.
“I’ve got a bit of unfinished business in Australia, but I don’t think that will be next season. As the horse has had a flat racing season and a jump racing season.
“It (the Melbourne Cup) is a particular itch as we have finished second, third, fourth, fifth and probably sixth in it over the years. It is just a race I’d love to win. It’s a fantastic race to win. I call it one of the greatest atmospheres and it rivals Cheltenham, I can’t say it is better this week though.
“I’d imagine we would go to Punchestown rather than Aintree with this lad. He could hopefully be as good as Nichols Canyon or Thomas Hobson.”
Winning jockey Paul Townend said:
“He’s not the finished article yet. It was a muddling race, probably, but that’s why we were a bit handier today, we thought it might be. He isn’t the finished article but he’s got an engine.
“The Triumph is normally a strongly-run race, but on paper it was looking like it wouldn’t be that way, so I was anxious at the start to keep an eye on what people were thinking of doing. It’s worked out and we got into a nice position. He’s got a bit to learn, as I say, but he’s improving with every run.
“He would potentially be a Champion Hurdle horse, yes. He’s got a very big engine there but he’d have to jump a bit slicker than that for a Champion Hurdle, but that’s something we can work on at home and he’s definitely going the right way. With every run he’s getting better and he’s learning every day.
“The horses are running well. We were out of luck the first day and Patrick [Mullins] got us out of trouble, but everyone has put in a huge effort and it’s credit to the man at the top again.
“The ground is drying quickly and the sun will dry it out as well. It might be a bit easier to get through on the older horses.”
Triumphant owner Rich Ricci said:
“I didn’t watch that one! I watched the last hurdle, actually, and he flattened it. He’s a proper little taxi, isn’t he? A lovely horse.
“Will he be dual-purpose? I don’t know - I hope so. Five-year-olds always have a tough time in those races, but he looks like he’s got some engine. We’ll see what the time is, but I’m delighted with that.”
Gordon Elliott, trainer of both second home Fil Dor and third-placed Pied Piper said:
“Both horses ran very good races and we’ve no excuses. It was hard to split them before the race and we can’t complain. Pied Piper could go on the Flat and head to Ascot this year - we bought him with that in mind - but Fil Dor will probably jump a fence as he’s a big staying horse. They are two nice horses and I’m very proud of them, and of the rides both jockeys gave them.”
Joey Logan, racing manager to Caldwell Construction, owner of second Fil Dor and third Pied Piper, said:
“We are very happy. It was a very strong race and both of them ran a cracker. Fil Dor jumped and travelled and Pied Piper was exactly the same. Pied Piper is a lovely horse but needs better ground really. He came from Mr Gosden’s as a Flat horse and could go back to Royal Ascot for a big staying race. Fil Dor is a chaser in the making.
Davy Russell, rider of runnr-up Fil Dor, said:
“Everything went to plan, we just weren’t good enough. It’s lovely ground, it’s drying up a bit but it’s still grand.”
Jack Kennedy, who was aboard third home Pied Piper, said:
“I was happy the whole way. We probably went a shade steady for my lad and we would probably have preferred maybe a little stronger pace but no excuses and we ran proper. It’s very dead, tacky ground.”