THERE are few more satisfying things in life — let alone sport — than beating the Aussies. So bring on the Melbourne Cup with chucked in Irish raider Vauban. It’s quite possible there’s no point even running the race, and at 9-2 the Rich Ricci Royal Ascot hero looks a proper bet.
Vauban: A Sure Thing?
Willie Mullins’ raider is just the type of animal Australian handicappers lose sleep at night over, because they will have no understanding of his Grade 1 hurdling form and merely see he’s a handicapper or Group 3 standard on the level. The simple truth is that Vauban might not look out of place in a race like the Ascot Gold Cup.
Vauban's Weight Advantage
If he’s a European Group 1 stayer — and not any old stayer as he has some speed — then a weight of 55kg could look generous in the extreme. Racing Victoria head handicapper David Hegan is clearly worried. He said: "Most horses have a threshold. When they get to a certain weight they cannot perform to those levels but it may work out Vauban’s threshold is beyond 55kg, we can only rate him on the Flat form and what he’s done."
Willie Mullins: The Mastermind
Welcome, Mr Hegan, to the world of Mullins. You have no idea what you are up against! In a match of wits I’ll take Ireland’s champion jumps trainer over the Melbourne handicappers every day of the week. Hell, I don’t care if Hegan is built like Mike Tyson, I’d still fancy Mullins to outsmart him in a boxing ring. Ricci’s feet are a little more grounded than mine right now. He told me: "I think he will have to improve again to win — but he might just do that — so I think we are okay with the weights."
The Melbourne Cup Dream
Of course, Ricci has gone close in the Melbourne Cup before. Max Dynamite was second behind Prince Of Penzance in 2015 and third behind Rekindling in 2017. Ricci added: "The Melbourne Cup is just an unbelievable race. I’ve had the privilege of running in it with three horses — finishing second, third and sixth and I’d love to win it. I think Willie would really love to win it too! Probably more than me given his history with the race. It’s an incredible couple of weeks and it doesn’t just stop Victoria but the nation."
Today's Races: ITV Ayr Gold Cup
Today, domestically, it’s all about speed on ITV with the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup taking centre stage over six furlongs on ground with a bit of juice in it. Orazio has been well-backed and may well bounce back after a flop in the Stewards’ Cup, but it’s the horse who was back in eighth that day that interests me. ALBASHEER might be a little high in the handicap but I can’t help but feel he will give us something to shout about for Archie Watson and Hollie Doyle.