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Mullins’ Melbourne Cup attempt ends in disappointment

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Willie Mullins’ attempt to add the Melbourne Cup to his long list of successes didn’t receive the fairytale ending he would’ve dreamt of, after pre-race Vauban finished in a disappointing 14th place.

Hopes were high after Vauban won the Copper Horse Handicap at Royal Ascot in June, and the Mullins camp were confident of seeing off Australia’s finest flat racers and securing a healthy portion of the eight million Australian Dollar prize pot. Vauban was right in contention heading into the final three furlongs, but he was quickly swallowed by the field and faded badly to finish well outside the places that earned a share of the money.

Stablemate Absurde provided a semblance of satisfaction in finishing 7th to secure the €100,000 that came with it, but the race certainly won’t be remembered fondly by Mullins.

Early odds for next year’s Melbourne Cup suggest Mullins may have missed his best opportunity at winning what is one of the richest horse races in the world, with Vauban and Absurde both 33/1 for victory in 2024 according to melbourne-cup.online, compared to 7/2 earlier this week.

Pre-race quotes from Mullins do indicate a second attempt for Absurde isn’t out of the question though, with the Irishman stating, “I will enter him for Melbourne this year to get his name on the sheet, though he’s more a Melbourne horse for next year. He could be a very good novice hurdler, good enough to go to Cheltenham. You only get one opportunity at that.”

Until the plans are clearer, the build-up to 2024’s race will presumably centre around Australian jockey Mark Zahra, who shrewdly switched mounts from Gold Trip to Without A Fight to become the first jockey to win back-to-back Melbourne Cups since Glen Boss did so around 20 years ago.

This year’s winner Without A Fight is indeed the early favourite to see off his rivals for a second successive year and can be backed at 14/1.

As for Mullins, more renowned for his achievements as a National Hunt trainer with a remarkable 94 wins at the Cheltenham Festival, it’s back to the bread and butter of jumps racing, with the build-up to the Festival in March gradually gathering pace.

The early signs are certainly promising, with Mullins training two of the four ante-post favourites for the Championship races, namely El Fabiolo in the Champion Chase and Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup.

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