In all four starts this season, it’s fair to say that Vautour has failed to hit the heights promised by his dominant front-running performance in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.
He was workmanlike at best when receiving weight from Ptit Zig on his seasonal reappearance, was chinned on the line by Cue Card when tapped for stamina in the King George, failed to really excite when beating stablemate Valseur Lido in the Ryanair Chase at this past Cheltenham and then fell when considered a penalty kick in the Melling Chase at Aintree.
Despite a season of setbacks, Vautour is still 4/11 to win the Boylesports Champion Chase on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival on a first return to 2m since his days as a novice.
He has been sent off at a similar odds on both of his previous visits to the course and virtually scrambled home on both occasions. In each instance, the seven-year-old certainly lacked the impressiveness of past performances.
Since 2008, only 20 horses have won at Punchestown that competed at Aintree on their last start and these winners have come at a strike rate of barely 8%.
Vautour has underachieved all year, runs over a distance where there is greater pressure on his jumping and is running twice in the same month for the first time in his career. There are certainly reasons to oppose him at such a short price.
Another piece of good news for value seekers is that there are eight runners scheduled to line up, meaning the top three places will be paid each-way. And many entrants don’t look up to this level.
Baily Green has been outclassed in handicaps of late, Flemenstar’s best days are behind him, Twinlight has been struggling to make an impression at Grade 2 level and Simonsig is impossible to fancy having not jumped a fence under race conditions for over three years.
Like Vautour, God’s Own is another that is taking the Cheltenham/Aintree/Punchestown route after profiting from the former’s fall in Liverpool, but again the demands of this treble are off-putting for his chances.
Therefore, the best bet has to be Special Tiara. On first glance Henry De Bromhead’s nine-year-old appears not to like Punchestown, losing on all three career visits by a combined 76 lengths.
However, the problem on each occasion was more likely to be the ground than the circuit, with each run previously being on a heavy surface. Special Tiara is at his best on quicker ground. It is currently described as good-to-yielding at Punchestown.
More importantly, Special Tiara missed Aintree and Sandown, so is relatively well rested since finishing a respectable third in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, getting to within four lengths of Sprinter Sacre.
Ladbrokes are 5/1 on Special Tiara winning the Boylesports Champion Chase and if nothing else this appears an each-way bet to nothing.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.