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Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

The Cheltenham champion who saved his best for the big day

Vautour (left) finishes second to Cue Card (right) in last year's King George VI Chase at Kempton
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David Jennings recalls Vautour's three successes at the Cheltenham Festival

Ruby Walsh celebrates on Vautour after success in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle back in 2013
2014 Supreme Novices' Hurdle 

Despite being unbeaten since arriving from France and winning the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown the previous month, Vautour went to post for the festival opener with a point to prove and was 'only' 7-2 joint-favourite with Irving. That looked huge afterwards as he destroyed his 17 rivals with accurate jumping from the front. He was six lengths too good for Josses Hill, leaving Willie Mullins to describe the performance as "awesome". 


Ruby Walsh celebrates with trainer Willie Mullins after victory on Vautour in the JLT Novices' chase
2015 JLT Novices' Chase 

Jaws dropped, eyes were rubbed and quotes for the following season's Gold Cup were forthcoming after Vautour produced the most dazzling display in recent memory at the Cheltenham Festival. Vautour set out to make all and loved every second of it. His jumping prompted audible gasps from the crowd and he devoured Apache Stronghold - a previous Grade 1 winner - by 15 lengths, with another Grade 1 winner, Valseur Lido, a nose further back in third. This was Vautour at his most majestic and boy did he look the part when in full flow.

Vautour clears the final fence of the Ryanair chase to score by six lengths from Valseur Lido

2016 Ryanair Chase 

His home work might have been "stink", as Ruby Walsh called it, in the weeks leading up to the 2016 Cheltenham Festival but his Ryanair romp was a performance right out of the top drawer. Slick jumping, relentless galloping and a six-length success over Valseur Lido stamped him down as one of the great chasers of the modern era. The victory was greeted with mixed emotions as many felt he should have contested the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following day.

He was six lengths too good for Josses Hill and Willie Mullins described the performance as 'awesome' afterwards

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