Galopin Des Champs wins Festival feature for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend

Galopin Des Champs delivered in style as a 7/5 favorite at the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Willie Mullins’ posh seven-year-old fell on the last fence at last year’s festival, at his mercy in the Turners Novices’ Chase, but made brilliant amends 12 months later, winning decisively under Paul Townend.

After victories for Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020, it was a third success in the pursuit of the blue ribbon for both trainer and jockey, while Galopin Des Champs recorded his sixth win in a Class 1 company.

Ahead of the race there was much talk of the gelding’s unproven endurance for the extended three-quarters of a mile ride at Cheltenham, but Mullins had never wavered in his view that last month’s Irish Gold Cup hero could see the extra few furlongs at Prestbury Park.

And so it proved, Galopin Des Champs sped up the famous hill to win by seven lengths over 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) was fourth, with Protectorate (25/1) fifth.

A Plus Tard, the reigning champion, was hauled up the top of the hill by Rachael Blackmore after being disturbed after being brought down by Ahoy Senor on the top of the hill (which was brought down sounds Russian) while the winner’s stablemate,Stattler , checked out even earlier as he had never traveled for Patrick Mullins.

Ahor Senor took the field in the early stages, soon to be joined on the outside by Hewick while Bravemansgame settled just behind the leaders and jumped well for Harry Cobden. The winner, on the other hand, was held up at the back of the field in the early stages and only crept closer after the incident.

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Coming down the hill into the fray, Bravemansgame tackled Protectorate on the run to penultimate where the brave Hewick fell in fourth place, but all the way Townend fell back on the leader and behind the British and Irish aces vaulted over the in unison final fence Galopin Des Champs stamped his class into the procedure to eventually produce a finished winner.

Sky Bet make Galopin Des Champs a 5/2 shot for another Gold Cup win at Festival 2024, with Betfair and Paddy Power going from 7/2 to 11/8.

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Mullins said: “I wasn’t aware of the pressure I was under. I’m really happy for Audrey Turley (owner), Paul was under a lot of pressure too and gave him a great ride.

“The plan was to drop him off and get through, I said to him, ‘I think you’re on the best horse, the fastest horse, so as long as he doesn’t go off with you, just stick him in somewhere and put him down while he’s asleep’ – and he did.

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“It just worked, he gave him a brilliant, cool ride. Everyone was questioning the distance and his stamina, they would do it pretty quickly so I didn’t want him up there in the early transitions.

“If he has the class he will get through, if he doesn’t have it there’s no point.

“Every thought runs through your head, have we gone too far back? They had gone at such a gallop, something had to give way.

“One or two fell and we missed all that, we were very lucky. I think this man on board is very good when the pressure is on.”

He added: “I was surprised myself at how I got over the last two fences. With that horse we chose him to be our Gold Cup horse while Al Boum Photo kind of just happened. This guy, we thought he was good enough, and that’s putting pressure on you.

“Every time we improved him in the trip, it wasn’t a problem. He’s got that bit of class, you could run him two miles, two and a half miles. He has that certain pace when you want it.”

Townend tells ITV race: “It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. There was a bit of trouble everywhere I went, his jumping was just a bit cautious for the first loop but when I went out I had full confidence in him that he would get me out of trouble and he did.

“He’s a real, real horse because he’s run three different races and still won a Gold Cup.

“I could see them all getting started before me and it allowed me to refuel and be the last one on the scene. If they sat in front of me and got faster I would have had to chase them but it only gave me one chance to fill it up after gaining a lot of ground.

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“This race is just different.

“The Gold Cup takes winning to another level. Cheltenham is very important, but the Gold Cup just has a little bit more flavor.”

Owner Audrey Turley added: “It’s like a dream come true. I never dreamed of that, I never thought that we would be here with such a wonderful horse as Galopin Des Champs. Really and honestly, me, my daughter Sarah and my husband we are just so thrilled.

“We have a lot of support here, all our family is here, so there has been a lot of excitement throughout the week. Actually much longer.

“I don’t know what to say! It’s just so incredible and wonderful. We really just have to say thank you to the amazing Willie Mullins and the whole team at Closutton, without them we wouldn’t be here and having this wonderful day.

“We will forget all that (last year when the horse fell at the last fence), these things happen and anything can happen in racing as we know. Here we are, beautiful sunshine and Galopin won – we’re delighted.”

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