Vautour to sit out the weekend's action

Willie Mullins will plan the next move for Vautour after deciding not to run the King George runner-up at the weekend.

The seven-year-old, who was put through his paces yesterday morning, may now head straight to Cheltenham where his three entries include the Timico Gold Cup, for which he is favourite with a number of firms.

“He was ridden out this morning and I’m very happy with him,” said the Closutton trainer. “I’ll make up my mind where to go with him next.”

Vautour, who was just beaten a head by Cue Card in the Kempton feature over Christmas, did not appear among the Saturday entries for either the Red Mills Chase at Gowran or the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury.

Meanwhile Barry Geraghty feels Blazer would face a much stiffer task if he runs in Saturday’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.

The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old returned to hurdles last weekend after failing to pull up any trees over fences and ran out a most impressive winner of a competitive handicap.

He picked up a 5lb penalty which improved his chances of making the cut, but his position in the race is still not certain and Geraghty thinks that although he is vying for favouritism, things will be tough.

He said: “He enjoyed conditions and Blazer won well. It just may not have been that good a race.

“He handled conditions and he won well, and you can do no more than win, but the form may not be very strong.

“Blazer is entered in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday, and that will obviously be a far more competitive race. If he gets into the race and if he takes his chance, he will be carrying a 5lb penalty in a far more competitive race, so that will obviously be more difficult.”

Should Blazer run, Geraghty could face a choice of which JP McManus-owned runner to partner, as there is another leading contender in the green and gold silks in the shape of the novice Modus.

His trainer Paul Nicholls said: “Modus is obviously a high-class horse and we will see if he can win this big handicap. He will get two and a half miles in time but he is not slow – the testing ground will bring his stamina into play.”

Dodging Bullets is set to make a belated seasonal reappearance in the Betfair Exchange Chase at Newbury on Saturday. The eight-year-old, bred by Frankie Dettori, has been sidelined since winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham last March.

However, he is now ready to return to action and Paul Nicholls is happy with his condition ahead of the Grade Two contest, registered as the Game Spirit Chase.

“He’ll run on Saturday in the Game Spirit, he looks absolutely amazing and I am thrilled with him at the moment,” said Nicholls.

“Win, lose or draw he’ll improve for the run. I don’t think I have ever had him quite as fit and as well as I have before for his first run of the season.”


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