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18.05 Punchestown: Vautour poised to land five-timer

Vautour is long odds-on to see of his four rivals in this Grade 1 contest, and the Willie Mullins trained gelding is impossible to oppose.

The five-year-old came over to the Cheltenham Festival with a huge reputation, and lived up to all the hype when destroying his rivals in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in the manner of an exceptional horse with a hugely exciting future.

The son of Rbin Des Champs went into the contest having won his three races for since joining Mullins without being asked a serious question, and delivered in style on the big stage as routed a high class field by six lengths.

The 7/2 joint-favourite was always in command turning for home and when jockey Ruby Walsh asked him for a finishing kick, he took off up the hill to record a commanding success.

The runner-up has since come out and won in good style at Aintree to give the form a solid look, and off an official rating of 158 Vautour is rated 10lb and upwards clear of today’s rivals.

That suggests that, granted a clear round, it should be a formality for him to land the spoils if running to anything like his best.

The two rivals likely to capitalise if Vautour does have an off-day are Lac Fonatana and Lieutenant Colonel.

The former is trained by Paul Nicholls and comes into the contest on the back of gutsy wins in the Country Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

The five-year-old is finally beginning to fulfil the potential he showed as a juvenile, but lacks the scope and pace of Vautour.

Lieutenant Colonel was beaten 5 1/2 lengths by Vautour on his hurdling debut at Navan back in December, where the winner scored with far more in hand than the winning margin suggests.

However, the five-year-old has since showed progressive form since being stepped up in trip, finishing a fine sixth of 15 to Faugheen in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival before easily beating Le Vant D’Antan by 10 lengths in a Grade 2 contest at Fairyhouse.

Le Vant D’Antan gave that form a boost when winning here earlier in the week, and the Mouse Morris trained Lieutenant Colonel could well be the one that gives Vautour most to think about.