JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)
IN a race that developed into a shoot out between several crack Irish juveniles, it was Vauban who emerged victorious to signal that he is unquestionably the dominant figure amongst this year’s crop of quality four-year-olds.
Vauban met with defeat at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve but a Grade 1 victory at Leopardstown next time saw the Willie Mullins-trained gelding head the market at 6/4.
The Elliott stablemates Pied Piper, who beat Vauban at Punchestown, and Fil Dor were lying in wait along with the winner’s stablemates Icare Allen and Il Etait Temps which made this Vauban’s acid test over hurdles.
The Susannah Ricci-owned gelding rose to the challenge at hand in fine style and produced his most polished effort yet since going jumping.
In a fairly steadily run contest, Vauban was always nicely placed for Paul Townend and when he got squeezed along approaching the turn-in, he responded in great style.
He cruised to the front on the run to the last and most impressive was the manner in which he recovered from a mistake at that flight. Vauban’s error gave Fil Dor and Pied Piper a chance to close in which they did but then he found another gear on the run in and forged on to win by two and a half lengths from Fil Dor with Pied Piper a neck back in third.
Icare Allen and Il Etait Temps filled the next two placings to make it a clean sweep for what looks an outstanding crop of Irish juveniles.
“He has a lot of ability and his flat racing experience helped him. He’s got so much speed,” said Mullins. “He is a type of horse we could bring back to flat racing later in his career but I think we will pursue hurdling first. He’s had a season on the flat and now he has had a season hurdling so he might now want a break as opposed to going back on the flat this year. I’d imagine the Champion Hurdle is the obvious route to go with him next season.”
McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
THE Willie Mullins domination of this year’s meeting continued into the second race on the final day as State Man made fairly short work of his opponents to vindicate the high regard in which he has long been held.
The Marie Donnelly-owned State Man came down two out in a Leopardstown maiden when odds-on for his Irish debut before making amends at odds of 1/7 at Limerick last month.
That Limerick race was light years away from the sort of test that confronted State Man here but the well-backed 11/4 favourite belied his lack of experience with an imperious effort on just his fourth start, and he could easily make his mark at Grade 1 level before the end of the season.
Under a supremely confident Paul Townend, State Man was settled well off the pace before creeping his way into contention from before the second last and it wasn’t long before the outcome took an inevitable air.
State Man cruised up against the stand’s side rail to dispute the lead at the last. He didn’t take long to shake off compatriot Colonel Mustard and Townend never had to get that animated in the closing stages for his mount to defeat First Street by a length and a quarter.
“It takes a special guy to jump off behind where Paul did and to have that sort of confidence and then go around the outside. I could see him coming down the hill and Paul had so much horse he was just looking for the right horse to follow through and he picked the right one,” remarked Mullins. “When you are riding with confidence things fall into place for you and that’s where Paul is at the moment.
“This horse could easily have gone to the Supreme Novices’ but he came here and I’ll say we will go back for a graded races now and probably look at the Grade 1 novice hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.”