Willie Mullins is confident Galopin Des Champs will put up a staunch defence of his crown in next month’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The eight-year-old was a brilliant winner of the blue riband last season, a third Gold Cup triumph in five years for the Festival’s most successful trainer following the back-to-back victories of Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020.
Galopin Des Champs was beaten by Fastorslow at the end of last season and at the start of the current campaign, but roared back to his best with a stunning Savills Chase success over Christmas before taking his revenge on Fastorslow when plundering his second Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown earlier this month.
Speaking at his annual press morning ahead of the sport’s showcase fixture in four weeks’ time, Mullins appeared more than happy with the condition of his star performer ahead of his return to the Cotswolds.
“He’s come out of his race in Leopardstown very well and I’m very happy. It’s going to be a tip-top Gold Cup I think. We’re in great form,” he said.
The Closutton handler feels a change to more positive tactics has played a significant part in Galopin Des Champs’ mini resurgence as the division’s top dog.
Paul Townend was widely lauded for the patience he showed in last year’s Gold Cup, but it seems highly likely he will be ridden closer to the speed this time around.
Mullins added: “I’d wanted him ridden off the pace the two years before as I felt he was too keen and I didn’t want him getting drawn into a battle, but this year I don’t mind.
"He’s bigger and stronger, well certainly stronger but he’s more mature now and definitely up for it (leading).”
Galopin Des Champs may well be joined in the Gold Cup field by stablemate Monkfish, who was sidelined for two years after an excellent novice campaign in 2020-21.
He was beaten on his first two starts after his return last spring, but resumed winning ways in last month’s Galmoy Hurdle and Mullins feels a good portion of his ability remains intact.
“Monkfish is also in the Stayers’ Hurdle, but if enough rain comes I’d seriously have to consider him for the Gold Cup,” he said.
“He’s got the class and I was happy he came back in good order in Gowran, albeit over hurdles. At the moment I’d say I’ll prepare him for the Gold Cup, I’ll have a word with Rich (Ricci, owner) and see what he is thinking.
“I thought he went a long way to answering if he was as good as he was at Gowran and come Cheltenham, he will be better again.”
Such is the staggering strength in depth Mullins has at his disposal, he did not even enter his Cotswold Chase victor Capodanno for the Festival’s most prestigious event.
The JP McManus-owned gelding’s likely target at Prestbury Park appears the Ryanair Chase, but Mullins did reveal the possibility of supplementing for the Gold Cup “has been mentioned”.
We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.