Three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Vautour has been put to sleep after breaking his leg in a freak accident at Closutton.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old was an emphatic all-the-way winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2014, before following that up with a blistering win in the JLT Novices’ Chase in 2015. His most recent Festival victory came in the Ryanair Chase in 2016, in which he won with his usual disdain for his rivals.
A winner of 10 of his 16 starts, amongst which include five Grade 1’s, the gelded son of Robin Des Champs was being prepared for another exciting campaign, which could possibly have ended up with the Cheltenham Gold Cup his target in 2017, before the heart-breaking news broke on Sunday.
Trainer Willie Mullins said “It’s been a lovely, dry day here and Vautour was out in the paddock with his usual companion Shaneshill.
“One of the girls went out to feed him. There didn’t appear to be anything untoward as Shaneshill was grazing away, but Vautour was found to have broken his foreleg.
“He goes out there every day and it’s just a freak accident.
“It’s tough to take.”
Whilst we all know the risks undertaken every day by these magnificent but ultimately fragile creatures, when you get one come along that’s as special as Vautour was, it is a bitter pill to swallow when their life is cut so cruelly short, especially for something which if it happened to a human would be an easy fix.
Whilst Vautour sadly won’t get the chance to truly realise his potential and cement himself amongst the all-time greats, we won’t forget the dazzling flamboyance we became accustomed to at the Cheltenham Festival over the last three years – he truly was one in a million.
Please take a moment to watch the video I prepared ahead of this season, and appreciate the true greatness of this magnificent animal.
Sleep well Vautour, run free furry friend.