Vautour goes down fighting as Cue Card claims King George
Vautor was pipped by Cue Card (9-2) in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton.
Willie Mullins' Vautour had looked all over the winner after taking over at the head of affairs on the second circuit and was still on a hard rein with three furlongs to run as the rest were coming under pressure, none more so than the favourite Don Cossack, who to his credit was still in with a chance when he fell at the second-last.
Cue Card looked to be booked for second as Vautour pinged two out under Ruby Walsh, but his stride began to shorten. Paddy Brennan needed a big leap on Cue Card at the final fence but he got in tight, as did Vautour, and the two gave their all on the run to the line, with Cue Card just getting the verdict.
Mullins was magnanimous in defeat and admitted it was "probably" a lack of stamina which cost Vautour.
"He did everything right, bar the last 20 yards," said Mullins.
"He didn't jump the last as efficiently as he could have, but it was a very brave run, as it was from the winner.
"I don't know if his stamina gave out, but it probably looks like that. We won't make a decision about the Gold Cup for a while, we'll see what we have to run in it when it comes - I won't be taking him out of it, anyhow."
Trainer Colin Tizzard, whose stable star is now on the verge of a £1million Jockey Club bonus if he can win the Gold Cup, said: "Nowadays he's a completely different horse, he might not look as if he's going very well but he has that left for the end. It's fantastic.
"He's been a great horse for five or six seasons now. Going to the last if he'd met it on a good stride he'd have won easier.
"We'll see how he is, but he looks like a Gold Cup horse now, whether he races again (before Cheltenham) I don't know, he's had a hard race and was all out. It's lovely he relaxes so well in a race, it's brilliant."