Galopin Des Champs delivered in style as the 7/5 favourite in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Willie Mullins’ classy seven-year-old crashed out at the final fence with the Turners Novices’ Chase at his mercy at last year’s Festival but made amends in brilliant fashion 12 months on, winning decisively under Paul Townend.
It was a third success in chasing’s blue riband for both trainer and jockey following wins for Al Boum Photo in both 2019 and 2020, while Galopin Des Champs was recording his sixth victory in Grade 1 company.
Much talk pre-race was about the gelding’s unproven stamina for the extended three and a quarter-mile trip at Cheltenham but Mullins had never wavered in his view that last month’s Irish Gold Cup hero could see out the extra couple of furlongs at Prestbury Park.
And so it proved, Galopin Des Champs roaring up the famous hill to win by seven lengths from the Paul Nicholls-trained King George winner Bravemansgame (6/1) in second and 22/1 chance Conflated in third for Gordon Elliott.
Last year's Grand National winner Noble Yeats (14/1) ran on to finish fourth, with Protektorat (25/1) fifth.
A Plus Tard, the reigning champion, was pulled-up by Rachael Blackmore at the top of the hill after being interfered with following the fall of Ahoy Senor at the top of the hill (brought down Sounds Russian), while the winner's stablemate Stattler checked out even earlier having never been travelling for Patrick Mullins.
Ahor Senor took the field along in the early stages, soon joined on his outside by Hewick, with Bravemansgame settled just behind the leaders and jumping well for Harry Cobden. The winner, in contrast, was held up right at the back of the field through the early stages and only started to creep closer after the incident.
Bravemansgame cruised into contention coming down the hill and tackled Protektorat on the run to the second-last, where the gallant Hewick took a fall when held in fourth, but all the while Townend was going through the gears on the market leader and after the British and Irish aces jumped the final fence together Galopin Des Champs stamped his class on proceedings to ultimately run out a ready winner.
Sky Bet make Galopin Des Champs a 5/2 shot for a repeat win in the Gold Cup at the 2024 Festival, with Betfair and Paddy Power going 11/8 from 7/2.
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Mullins said: “I didn’t realise the pressure I was under. I’m absolutely delighted for Audrey Turley (owner), Paul was under huge pressure too and gave him a peach of a ride.
“The plan was to drop him in and come through, I said to him ‘I think you’re on the best horse, the fastest horse, so as long as he doesn’t get running with you just tuck him in somewhere and put him asleep’ – and he did.
“It just worked out, he gave him a brilliant, cool ride. Everyone was questioning the distance and his stamina, they were going to make it plenty fast so I didn’t want him up there in the early exchanges.
“If he has the class, he’ll come through, if he hasn’t then there’s no point.
“All the thoughts go through your head, have we gone too far back? They had gone such a gallop, something had to give.
“One or two fell and we missed all that, we’d a lot of luck. I think that man on board, when the pressure comes on, he’s very good.”
He added: “I was surprised myself how I was over the last two fences. With this horse, we’d elected him as our Gold Cup horse whereas Al Boum Photo sort of just happened. This fellow, we thought he was good enough and that puts you under pressure.
“Every time we’ve upped him in trip, it’s been no problem. He has that bit of class, you could run him over two miles, two and a half miles. He has that bit of speed when you want it.”
Townend told ITV Racing: “It wasn’t plain sailing, that’s for sure. Everywhere I went there was a bit of trouble, his jumping just got a bit careful for the first circuit but going out I had full faith in him that he was going to get me out of trouble and he did.
“He’s a proper, proper horse because he’s run about three different races and still won a Gold Cup.
“I could see them all going at it in front of me and it allowed me to fill up and be the last one on the scene. If they’d have sat in front of me and quickened, I’d have had to chase them but it just gave me a chance to fill him up after making up a lot of ground.
"This is race is just different.
"The Gold Cup brings winning to a different level. Cheltenham is very important, but the Gold Cup just has that little bit more spice to it.”
Owner Audrey Turley added: “It’s like a dream come true. It’s something I never dreamt of, I never thought we would be here with such a wonderful horse as Galopin Des Champs. Really and truly, myself, my daughter Sarah and my husband, we’re just so thrilled.
"We’ve huge support here, all our family are here, so the excitement has been high all week. Well actually, for much longer than that.
"I don’t know what to say! It’s just so unbelievable and wonderful. Really we just have to thank magnificent Willie Mullins and all the team at Closutton, we wouldn’t be here having this wonderful day without them.
"We’re going to forget all that (last year, when the horse fell at the last fence), these things happen and in racing anything can happen as we know. Here we are, beautiful sunshine and Galopin has won – we’re thrilled."
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