Ad Vauban, ridden by Ryan Moore, wins the Copper Horse Handicap (2800m) during day one of Royal Ascot. (Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Willie eyeing a Melbourne Cup return with Vauban

21 June 2023 Written by VRC

Master trainer Willie Mullins proved his class on the world stage and puts the Lexus Melbourne Cup firmly on the agenda.

Owner Rich Ricci a nervous onlooker. (Video: At The Races (Twitter))

Willie Mullins is renowned as a champion jumps trainer dominating world festivals such as Cheltenham, but Mullins yet again proved himself on the flat with his ninth win at Royal Ascot with Vauban taking out the Copper Horse Handicap (2800m). 

In a dominant staying performance under the guidance of Ryan Moore, Vauban blew away his rivals and rushed into equal Melbourne Cup favouritism after declarations from owner Rich Ricci that the Melbourne Cup Carnival was on the stable’s radar. 

"I have unfinished business out in Australia," Mullins has been quoted as saying in the UK media. "We've finished second, third, fourth and sixth in the Melbourne Cup and it's just a race I'd love to win." 

Vauban has recorded three Grade 1 wins from eight starts over the obstacles before the switch back to the flat. In 2012, Mullins brought hurdler Simenon to Royal Ascot, completing the Ascot Stakes (4000m) and Queen Alexandra Stakes (4344m) double.  

He returned to the Royal meeting in 2013 and was narrowly beaten by Estimate in the Group 1 Ascot Gold Cup (4000m). He then travelled to Melbourne, running third in the Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at Caulfield before a super run when fourth in the 2013 Melbourne Cup, won by Fiorente. 


Vauban puts a space on his rivals. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images) 

Vauban, owned by the Ricci family, who raced another Mullins jumper-turned-Melbourne Cup performer in Max Dynamite. Twice placed in the Melbourne Cup in 2015 and 2017, Mullins brought Max Dynamite off the back of a hurdle campaign, winning a maiden hurdle before returning to flat racing. 

Vauban’s credentials as a hurdler far exceed that of Max Dynamite and could be the horse that can land Mullins the ultimate prize on that first Tuesday in November. 

Vauban had not been seen on the flat since July 2021, winning a Listed Prix Frederic de Lagrange (2000m) in France for former trainer Philippe Decouz.  

“It has always been the plan to campaign him on the flat for the time being. Hopefully, it will be the Melbourne Cup, but how we get there is another day’s work. The Melbourne Cup is where we said we wanted to go two years ago and we’re trying to get there.” – Willie Mullins

 Mullins also had Wicklow Brave (22nd in 2016 & 10th in 2017), Thomas Hobson (6th in 2017) Stratum Albion (13th in 2020) run in the Melbourne Cup, while True Self won the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m) twice in 2019 and 2020 on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. 


The 2023 Melbourne Cup Carnival begins on Saturday 4 November with Penfolds Victoria Derby Day, followed by Lexus Melbourne Cup Day on Tuesday 7 November, Kennedy Oaks Day on Thursday 9 November, and concludes with TAB Champions Stakes Day on Saturday 11 November. Early bird tickets now available

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