Number 49: The what could have been Rich Ricci horse who blew us away but left a slight sour note

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WITH the Cheltenham Festival now 50 days away, the Sun Racing team will be bringing you their ‘Festival 50’ every day between now and 10 March.

We will salute the Prestbury Park heroes that made us fall in love with the Festival, all the way until the ‘Cheltenham roar’ signals that the wait is finally over.

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Number 49: Vautour

The first of the Willie Mullins battalion set to grace this list, and who knows how much higher Vautour could have gone had he sadly not left us at seven.

Not many horses are unbeaten at the Festival, but this chap was. He came with a big reputation into the 2014 Supreme and absolutely routed them.

He didn’t have things all his own way, but when the race got going, there was only one winner.

A huge leap at the last drew a wow from the crowd and he announced himself as a star of the future.

But it will be his JLT triumph the following year punters will remember him by.

There was no surprise about the result as he was sent off the 6-4 jolly following a big gamble, but the way he moved through the race and jumped his fences was a sight to behold.

His leap at the second last was picture perfect. The papers were soon flying in the Grandstand and Ruby’s smile began after the last.

He put on a show, but from there things weren’t quite the same, even if the talent seemingly was.

The pink and green clad superstar was beat by Cue Card in a King George for the ages, but was reportedly still full steam ahead for the Gold Cup and a shot at immortality and a famous Cheltenham hat-trick.

Entries were made in both the Ryanair and the Blue Riband event and so began one of the most infamous rounds of Mullins bingo.

Tuesday of the Festival came around as quickly as it always does and there it was, Vautour declared for the Ryanair.

Reports of not working well at home and not being himself were used as the reasoning behind him avoiding the Friday feature. It left a sour taste in a few punters mouths as Mullins recorded a sixth win at the Festival.

Mullins dominated all week at Prestbury. But with the horse sadly lost in a freak accident the following year, we will never know just how good he could have been.

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