Style and substance to Vautour form

The Punchestown festival will see the end of the National Hunt season in the dying days of this month and into early May.

Style and substance to Vautour form

If there is one horse to look forward to at the five-day extravaganza it has to be Willie Mullins' Vautour.

We all know how impressive he was at Cheltenham last month, but anyone can look good when beating trees.

He won in the end by six lengths, giving his trainer the option of literally going whatever road he wanted with the former French resident.

Perhaps, with Hurricane Fly's best days now clearly behind him, pointing Vautour in the direction of the Champion Hurdle would be a real possibility.

Mullins, however, has pointed out that he regards Vautour as a chaser in the making and what an absolute star he promises to be at that game.

At Cheltenham, Vautour was visually quite brilliant, giving a massive exhibition of superb jumping, powerful front-running and was simply awesome from the home turn to the finishing post.

Visually is one thing, however, and basically not much good if not backed up by substance - and lots of it.

Well, most of the evidence since Cheltenham has been encouraging and there is more than a possibility that Vautour really is something special.

He beat Josses Hill by six lengths in the Supreme Novice Hurdle and that horse went on to land a Grade 2 at Aintree last week.

In fourth place at Cheltenham was Sgt Reckless and he was second to Josses Hill in that Aintree race.

Then you had the tenth at Cheltenham, Valseur Lido, winning a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse last Sunday.

And there's more, focusing on Splash Of Ginge, who was 20 lengths fifteenth to Vautour at Cheltenham.

He returned to action at Aintree and chased home Lac Fontana, himself a winner at Cheltenham, in a Grade 1.

The form book will always be the greatest tool any punter has when it comes to finding winners. Right now it is screaming in favour of Vautour.

Barry Connell, at least as far as racing is concerned, is not having a good year. Indeed, it would no great exaggeration to say, he's having a bloody bad year.

He reportedly gave €1m for Our Conor, only to see him killed in action in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Then he decided that The Tullow Tank, which he has with Philip Fenton, would not run again until Fenton's anabolic steroids case was finally adjudicated upon by the courts.

Then, Connell parted with £160,000 for the 11-year-old Mossey Joe, who was said to be heading for the Grand National at Aintree.

In the end, he was re-routed for the Foxhunters at the meeting and didn't exactly cover himself in glory in finishing a poor third behind Warne.

But the icing on the cake, for the want of a better way of putting things, was having to watch Pineau De Re winning last Saturday's National.

We all know that Connell owned Pineau De Re, before he was sold to be trained by Dr Richard Newland.

The last occasion the horse ran in Ireland, he won the Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick in April of 2013 by a whopping 23 lengths.

It isn't the first time, of course, something like this has happened. Amberleigh House won the National for Donald McCain in 2004, having previously been trained in Ireland by Michael Hourigan.

His last outing in Ireland came at Gowran Park in October of 2000 when 34 lengths fifth of six finishers. There were actually only seven runners in that contest.

Amberleigh House then went on to land the National, having his 25th outing for McCain. He ran 12 times after the National and never won again.

That Valseur Lido shapes like a fair horse. He certainly gave every indication such was the case at Fairyhouse last Sunday when running away with a Grade 2 hurdle.

Gigginstown's French recruit looked useful when winning ordinary contests at Cork and Navan, but had been off the track for nearly three months before heading to Cheltenham to run in the Supreme Novice Hurdle.

Even though only finishing tenth of 18, he performed far better than his placing might indicate and was going on nicely at the end.

Not too much seemed to go right for him at Fairyhouse. Before the race, for instance, Valseur Lido was very much on his toes and kept away from all the other runners by Davy Russell down at the start.

Then he dived at the second flight and was probably lucky enough to survive.

But, after that, he found a lovely rhythm and powered nicely clear from the back of the final flight to beat Real Steel, who was admittedly conceding him 6lbs, by four and a quarter lengths.

But the rest of the field were spread out like Brown's cows, another 14 lengths to the third, six more lengths to the fourth and so on. That is nearly always a great sign.

Two horses to note from the flat action of late are surely Jim Bolger's Theophilus and Johnny Murtagh's Jocular.

Theophilus was well touted prior to making a winning debut, by nine lengths, at Gowran Park last Saturday.

The fact he is by Teofilo would indicate he is likely to be far better on good ground, rather than the bog that had to be overcome at Gowran.

Jocular looked no great shakes when beaten into second, at 4-6, on his debut at Dundalk, but looked an entirely different proposition when just failing to cope with hot-pot Onenightidreamed at Cork last Sunday. He stripped a fine horse in the ring and winning a maiden, at least, is a formality.

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