Horse Racing
Leading Jumps Racing icon Mullins takes on Flat Racing’s best in Ascot Gold Cup

19/06/2024 14:48

Willie Mullins is champion jumps trainer in both Ireland and Great Britain, but his achievements and ambitions extend beyond winning jump racing’s biggest prizes. Mullins has already won some of Britain’s top long distance Flat races and hopes to add the historic G1 Gold Cup (3991m) to his collection at Ascot on Thursday (20 June).

At Royal Ascot, Mullins has won both the Ascot Stakes and the Queen Alexandra Stakes  four times. In 2012, Simenon won both races. The following year, Simenon was beaten a neck in the Gold Cup.

That left a gap that Mullins hopes to fill with Vauban. He said: “For a stable like ours, which is predominantly jumps, it would be absolutely huge to win the Ascot Gold Cup. We came within a whisker of winning it in 2013 and I think Vauban can give a good account of himself.”

A year ago, Vauban ran away with the Copper Horse Handicap (2831m) and, having disappointed in the G1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), finished second in the G2 Yorkshire Cup (2771m) at York.

Mullins said: “I was delighted with that reappearance run. He hadn’t run in a long time and I knew he would come on for it. I don’t mind what the weather does as he seems to go on any ground.”

Mullins’ son Patrick added: “Vauban is in great form and winning would revenge Simenon’s narrow defeat.”

It won’t be easy, with Willie admitting that Aidan O’Brien’s Kyprios, the winner two years ago, will be very hard to beat.

O’Brien knows what is required, having won the Gold Cup a record eight times. He said, “It is a very special race, unique. When you get beyond 3200m it is unbelievably different. Very few horses stay that far. It is difficult finding the right horse for it.”

O’Brien gave a positive report on Kyprios. He said: “His first two runs this year were lovely. He’s very perky and everything looks good.”

The two races, both of which Kyprios won, were the same that he won before the 2022 Gold Cup. This year’s favourite has proved that he stays the distance whereas Vauban is unraced beyond 3200m on the flat and not certain to appreciate the extra distance.

Among those waiting to take advantage are joint-trainers John and Thady Gosden, who run Gregory, Trawlerman and Sweet William. The father and son team won last year with Courage Mon Ami while Gosden Snr also won three times with Stradivarius.

He recently described Gregory as “probably the classiest” of the three, with Trawlerman “not to be underestimated and in the form of his life,” and Sweet William “a very talented horse. He’ll be there at the end.”

The day offers an exciting menu of other races, with Diamond Rain favourite to maintain her unbeaten record in the G2 Ribblesdale Stakes (2392m) and Whistlejacket, impressive in a Listed race last time on soft going, favourite to reign on faster ground in the G2 Norfolk Stakes (1000m).