Vauban (4/1 favourite) arrived in Australia for the Melbourne Cup over the weekend; Willie Mullins' star has won his last two on the flat, in the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot and the Group Three Ballyroan Stakes at Naas; Melbourne Cup at Flemington on November 7
Monday 2 October 2023 12:06, UK
Melbourne Cup favourite Vauban arrived in Australia over the weekend and has settled into his new surroundings at the Werribee quarantine centre.
Trained by Willie Mullins, who is also running the Ebor winner Absurde in Australia's greatest race, Vauban has headed the market since his sparkling win in the Copper Horse Handicap, in which Absurde was second.
Since then Vauban, a three-time Grade One winner over hurdles, has won the Group Three Ballyroan Stakes in smooth style.
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"Touch wood, he seems fine," Mullins' assistant David Casey, who has travelled to Australia, told www.racing.com. "He travelled well, it seems he's eating and drinking since he came and arrived. He didn't lose a lot of weight and he's put it all actually back on since he came. Delighted with him.
"(He) had a little hack this morning, nothing strenuous - so, so far so good.
"I went over and rode him last Tuesday before he left, gave him a nice bit of work and was very happy with him."
Some European challengers often take in a warm-up race but with both Vauban and Absurde confirmed of a place in the Melbourne Cup already, Casey feels there is no need to go down that road.
"I imagine it will be straight in, it's looking that way," Casey said. "I imagine the next couple of weeks will be pretty quiet for him and then we'll start building him up closer to the race.
"It was great that he won at Ascot and backed it up when he won in Naas - we're here and we're delighted to be taking part and obviously hopefully with a horse that can be competitive.
"We will be thrilled if we can be competitive in the race. 55kg for Vauban is kind of what we expected - we kind of thought somewhere between 54.5 and 55.5."
Casey, though, would prefer a bit of rain before the big day at Flemington on Tuesday, November 7.
"They're big, strong horses, both of them - maybe ground-wise, it might be a little bit of a disadvantage because they might just hit it a little bit harder," he said. "I haven't seen it this warm this early before out here. If there's a drop of rain around, I won't mind too much. I could do with it in five weeks' time maybe!
"I think Absurde will probably handle it quicker - Vauban has run and he won on very quick ground in Ascot, which wasn't an issue - but you'd just prefer not to be running on it every day, you know, when he is big and strong."