Stamina test will be good indicator for Vautour, says Walsh

RUBY Walsh is relishing the prospect of being reunited with the brilliant Vautour in today’s Stella Artois 1965 Chase at Ascot.

So impressive was the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old in annihilating his rivals in last season’s JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, he now heads ante-post lists for both the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He returns to Britain for his seasonal reappearance in this two-mile-five-furlong Grade Two and Walsh is taking confidence from the excellent form of the stable.

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He said: “He seems well, he worked well on Tuesday and the conditions of the race suit. He’ll definitely improve for his run, but our horses seem to be hitting form.

“He’s a horse we’ve always thought a hell of a lot of. I love him. I just think he has so much natural ability and he’s so straightforward. I didn’t quite expect him to be as good as he was at Cheltenham, but he was magnificent, I thought. It was a good race and what he did from three out was spectacular.”

With Vautour never having raced beyond two and a half miles, Walsh admits he still has his stamina to prove, but expects the King George to be a good indicator as to whether the Gold Cup is a realistic Festival target. He added: “The King George should tell you where you’re going. If you don’t win the King George you’re probably not going to win the Gold Cup, so that will probably guide us.”

Top Flat sponsor Qipco has launched a withering attack on Channel 4’s racing coverage – and how programmes like The Morning Line have become a “complete yawn” as viewing figures plummet.

The intervention is significant because Sheikh Fahad’s Qipco empire sponsors the British Champions Series and British Champions Day. David Redvers, racing representative of Qipco, said: “The problem I have had for some time is Channel 4 seems to be far too interested in portraying racing solely as a betting medium and it thereby marginalises half the audience.

“We have some of the most fascinating, exciting, hairs-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your neck stories generated by any sport. However, there seems to be a reluctance by some at Channel 4 to tell those stories in its morning and afternoon racing programmes.

“What got Sheikh Fahad into racing in the first place is he loved the chat, banter and storylines on The Morning Line when it was produced by the old team. It was great television and it sucked him into the sport. Now it is a complete yawn as it seems to be almost entirely devoted to the betting on the racing that day.”

You could spend the day in a first class hospitality box at Doncaster Races as part of the Yorkshire Post Christmas Appeal auction. The package includes a champagne reception for up to 24 people. Bidding is already open, and closes on Friday at 5pm. All proceeds from the auction go to Sheffield-based assistance dog charity Support Dogs.