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Vaniteux poised to get back on victory trail

Vaniteux has some top class form to his name and with conditions to suit looks a worthy favourite to land the 2m 4f hurdle at Cheltenham today (3.05).

The Nicky Henderson trained gelding has only had six starts over hurdles, winning twice and finishing a cracking third of 18 to Vautour in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival here on his final start last season.

The five-year-old stayed on well in the latter to be beaten 6 1/2 lengths, and it was an effort which suggested Vaniteux should have plenty more to offer this season.

Vaniteux confirmed that impression on reappearance over course and distance in the Greatwood Hurdle when runner-up to Garde La Victoire under top weight of 11st 12lb.

The son of Voix Du Nord travelled like much the best horse throughout the contest on the worst of the ground on the inside, and after a mistake four out stayed on well to go down by just over a length.

To me he lost little in defeat on his first run in 250 days on very testing conditions, and if he had raced wide with the main pack the result may well have been different.

Vaniteux backed that up with a cracking run last time out when finding only The New One too strong in the Grade 2 International Hurdle at this venue.

He made a mistake two from home that day but recovered quickly to throw-down a challenge at the final flight before being unable to match the winners’ turn of foot.

To his credit, Vaniteux stuck to the task well to be beaten 4 1/2 lengths and it was a run which suggested he was well worth a try at today’s longer trip.

The fact that jockey Barry Geraghty has chosen to partner him over leading World Hurdle fancy Beat That also speaks volumes, and I fully expect Vaniteux to repay the compliment by landing the spoils.

The obvious danger is 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby who rarely runs a bad race at the venue and looked as good as ever when landing the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle at the track last month.

The Harry Fry trained nine-year-old took up the running three from home and stayed on strongly in the hands of Noel Fehily to beat Volnay De Thaix with a shade more in hand than the winning margin of 2 1/4 lengths suggests.

Rock On Ruby is officially the highest rated in the line-up off 160, but has to give 8lbs to the 154-rated Vaniteux who is weighted to come out on top and remains open to further progression.