Vauban staked his Melbourne Cup claim with an impressive victory in the Ballyroan Stakes at Naas.
Willie Mullins’ five-year-old is a three-time Grade One winner over obstacles, but has begun to make a real name for himself on the Flat, winning the Copper Horse Handicap by seven and a half lengths at Royal Ascot.
He needed to finish in the first three of this mile-and-a-half Group Three to secure his berth in the Flemington showpiece on November 7 and did so in fine style.
Vauban was ridden forward, tracking the pace set by Gooloogong and Pivotal Trigger in the hands of Colin Keane and loomed up menacingly as they straightened for home.
Keane soon asked his mount to launch his challenge and he immediately set about putting the race to bed, storming clear up the home straight with Joseph O’Brien’s Valiant King the only horse to get near the winner as the 4-6 favourite recorded a bloodless length-and-a-half triumph.
“We’re delighted with him and Colin was happy. He said they went a good gallop, a nice even pace, and it suited him,” said Mullins’ assistant trainer David Casey.
“It ticked a box, which we were here for today, to get placed to qualify for the Melbourne Cup.
“I think there is plenty of improvement in him. He had a little break after Ascot and was ready to start back today.
“Everything was right today, there was a bit of ease in the ground and there weren’t many runners, so it suited to come today. We’re obviously delighted with what he did.”
Vauban holds entries for York’s Lonsdale Cup as well as the Comer Group International Irish St Leger Trial Stakes and the Irish St Leger itself, both at the Curragh, and Casey says it will be down to Mullins whether the gelding takes up those engagements or heads straight to Australia for his Melbourne Cup bid.
He added: “He’s in all those races but I don’t know whether he’ll have another run or not, or go straight there. Willie will decide that.
“All those races are options, the Leger Trial and the Leger. I don’t know what he’s going to do but he’s entered in them all if he needs them.”
On the prospect of returning to hurdles next season, Casey said: “I’d say yeah, why not. I’d imagine so, but it depends on what happens.
“If he goes to Melbourne he doesn’t get back to the middle of November, so he wouldn’t be running at Christmas anyway.”
Coral make Vauban their 5-1 favourite from 6s for the Melbourne Cup, while the Closutton inmate is available at slightly bigger odds with Paddy Power who go 6-1.