Galopin Des Champs will return to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup on St Patrick’s Day looking to settle an old score and give Ireland a fifth straight victory in the Festival showpiece race.
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Galopin Des Champs’ Cheltenham chances
Winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021, Galopin Des Champs looked a certainty to double his Cotswolds tally last spring in the Turners Novices’ Chase.
That race was a duel between him and another previous Festival hurdles scorer, Bob Olinger. They were unbeaten over fences at the time, but Galopin Des Champs appeared set to take that claim away from his rival when he readily pulled clear in the home straight from his under-pressure opponent.
Then came racing disaster, as he slithered after jumping the final fence and hit the deck, leaving a tired Bob Olinger to come by and collect the prize.
It was the first and so far only time that Galopin Des Champs has lost a race over fences. This season he won the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown over 2m 4f on his comeback in December and then the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February.
That performance over three miles went a long way to answering the critics who believe Galopin Des Champs may not see out three-and-a-quarter miles around Cheltenham in a Gold Cup, but there still remains a stamina question to answer.
He will bid to give Willie Mullins and Paul Townend their third Gold Cup in five years together and Ireland a fifth on the trot. Galopin Des Champs is the clear favourite heading towards March 17.
Galopin Des Champs’ recent record at Cheltenham
Here is Galopin Des Champs’ record:
Galopin Des Champs’ Cheltenham race entries 2023
The only show in town for Galopin Des Champs is the Gold Cup. He has been touted for this coronation ever since he led his rivals a merry dance on his fences bow at Leopardstown in December 2021.
Everything he has done since has been leading him to this moment. Last season he was an exuberant frontrunner, jumping in jaw-dropping fashion.
That sort of style can at times lead to lost energy when the business end of a race comes around. It could even have been a factor in his Cheltenham misdemeanour last spring.
This term, he has really pleased his connections by showing much more economy of effort in his races and settling to his tasks easily. The Irish Gold Cup was the strongest indicator so far that he can fulfil his Cheltenham destiny.
In King George winner Bravemansgame at 7/1 for Paul Nicholls and reigning champion A Plus Tard 8/1 for Henry de Bromhead, he could well face the toughest opposition he has ever met. Throw in Grand National hero Noble Yeats, Irish Gold Cup predecessor Conflated, Ahoy Senor, Minella Indo and wildcard Hewick and it is a race with plenty of depth this year.
Who will be riding Galopin Des Champs at Cheltenham?
Townend was the man who finally ended Mullins’s desperate quest for Gold Cup glory when he brought home Al Boum Photo in 2019. Soon after, he was top dog at Closutton after the retirement of Ruby Walsh and he remains in the most coveted riding job in all of jumps racing.
He is formidable, but being Mullins’s No 1 jockey is not easy. There are tough decisions to be made and ultimate scrutiny when things go wrong, as Townend found out at the Dublin Racing Festival, when even his boss lined up to have a sly dig after some questionable rides.
Mullins quickly asserted, though, that he believes in his jockey – and Townend, more often than not, rewards him for that belief.
He will be looking for his third Cheltenham Gold Cup, while his partnership with Galopin Des Champs will be in need of some redemption for that late mishap last March.
Who is Galopin Des Champs’ trainer?
Willie Mullins is the all-time most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history, starting into the 2023 Festival with a tally of 88 previous victories. It seems a matter of time before he passes an incredible century of wins at this prestigious meeting.
After a succession of near misses with the likes of Sir Des Champs, On His Own and Djakadam in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, he finally landed the holy grail of jumps racing in 2019 when Al Boum Photo won.
He is now going for three in five years and Mullins is 1/8 with bet365 to be leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival this month.
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