One of the best steeplechasers in training has been put down following a freak accident at Willie Mullins’ yard.
Three-times Cheltenham Festival winner Vautour was found in his field with a broken leg yesterday (6 November).
“We don’t know exactly what happened, it was a freak accident,” Willie said.
“Vautour was out in the paddock with another of our horses, Shaneshill, who he goes out with most days.
“When one of the girls went out to feed him, Vautour was found with a broken front leg and our vet had no option but to put him down.”
The seven-year-old, who belonged to Mullins’ biggest owner Rich Ricci, had a phenomenal track record, winning 10 of his 16 starts.
He only ever finished out of the top two on one occasion — when he fell at Aintree on 8 April this year— but it was at Cheltenham where he captured the public’s imagination with three successive victories.
At the 2016 Festival, under his familiar big race partner Ruby Walsh, he added the Ryanair chase to his JLT novices chase (2015) and Supreme novice chase (2014) titles.
“Vautour’s loss is a big blow to our yard and for Mr and Mrs Ricci,” Mullins added. “It has been tough for Diarmuid (his groom) who has been a big part of his life.
“We have been very lucky to have him, he was the horse of a lifetime.”
The news came on a terrible day for the Mullins’ yard, as he also lost leading Hennessy Gold Cup contender Avant Tout following a fatal injury in a race at Naas, and six-year-old mare Ask Vic.
Six-year-old Avant Tout was pulled up by jockey Paul Townend after jumping the first fence and was found to have a deep laceration to his off-fore tendon.
The racecourse’s veterinary surgeon Tom Burns later confirmed he had to be put down after arriving at the Anglesey Veterinary Clinic on the Curragh.
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Steve Massey, racing manager for owners the Supreme Horse Racing Club, told the Irish Field: “We are devastated to say Avant Tout suffered a fatal injury.
“It is hard to take and thoughts are with his owners and Rachel who looked after him.”
Ask Vic, who was due to return to Willie’s yard and was also owned by the Supreme Horse Racing Club, suffered a bout of colic.