Scintillating JLT Novices’ winner Vautour made a successful seasonal bow at Ascot but was given a scare by Ptit Zig.
Ruby Walsh asked his mount for a big jump at the final fence and he obliged to go clear of Ptit Zig who ran gallantly under a 5lb penalty just 1 3/4 lengths behind.
Ptit Zig had the benefit of race fitness over Vautour, who set a sedate at the front of the field and lacked fluency at the fences on the back straight. Once Walsh increased the tempo Vautour’s jumping improved and it was his decisive final fence leap that helped seal the victory.
Jockey Walsh was happy with the performance, and believes he will improve immensely for the run.
“He made a mistake at the bottom of the hill second time around and he was a bit fresh going to post and rusty in the race. Ptit Zig had that match fitness and our horse was big and rusty. He’ll improve a hell of a lot for today. I like horses that can win like that when only half fit.”
Vautour appeared to jump to his left throughout the contest, a trait that would not help at the right-handed track of Kempton – reportedly his next port of call in the King George Chase.
“I wouldn’t be worried about going left or right,” Walsh confidently stated after the race, “Ascot does take horses to the left over fences. I don’t know why. The fences down the hill are all angled and makes it look a lot worse than it is.”
Connections were thrilled with the run of Ptit Zig, who carried 5lb more than Vautour despite being officially rated 12lbs inferior.
“We’ve given Vautour a race and we’re very pleased, although I’m sure we were a little more fit. Without Vautour we would have won in a canter,” co-owner Barry Fulton stated, “I still think he is a three-mile horse but probably not a King George type.”
In the following race former champion hurdler Rock On Ruby returned to winners enclosure staying on strongly up the run-in in the Ascot Hurdle, and provided Harry Fry with the final leg of an Ascot treble that afternoon.