Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1)

“I JUST think he put himself into the superstar category,” said Willie Mullins. A succinct but pinpoint appraisal of Galopin Des Champs (10/11 favourite) after the eight-year-old joined the greats as a dual Gold Cup winner yesterday afternoon.

By doing so he became only the fourth dual winner since L’Escargot in 1971, and you’d have to feel he has every chance of making it three next season, something his trainer was quick to allude to as well.

For most of the 22-fence, three-mile-two-furlong contest, this was so smooth for the Audrey Turley-owned gelding. He sat handy for Paul Townend, a contrast to last season when he was held up, but he always looked comfortable.

Many felt Fastorslow was his biggest danger, and he was in a way, because after he unseated J.J. Slevin down at the 16th, he proceeded to run on alongside the reigning champion. In truth, he probably did more harm to Gerri Colombe and Jack Kennedy, with Townend using the horse to block in those rivals on the run to the second last.

From here, Galopin Des Champs was set alight and, after a massive jump at the final fence, he was able to keep the brave Gerri Colombe at arms length up the run-in, scoring by three and a half lengths.

The Grand National winner Corach Rambler ran a fine race in third, and surely will be a big player at Aintree again, while L’Homme Presse, having made a lot of the running, kept on well for fourth. But this was all about the winner, who delivered the star performance we craved in a race that was billed as the best contest of the week and lived up to that prediction.

“I just think he put himself into the superstar category, to do what he did the way he did it, and that loose horse there,” Mullins reflected. “Paul was so positive on him. I think we have to say we’re coming back next year to try and win a third. He has the ability to do it, he just has to stay sound I think.

“The loose horse was the only concern. He might have hit one early but after that it was very easy, Paul was in a position he wanted to be in, and he just seemed to be travelling easy all the time.

“He’s certainly achieving more than I thought he could. It was great to win a Gold Cup this year and we were just thinking if we got him back safe and sound, he could win two. But you don’t believe those things, you dream those things.”


While Galopin Des Champs was vindicating an odds-on price, you cast your mind back to the John Durkan at Punchestown in November when he was a shadow of the horse we saw here when trailing in third to Fastorslow and stablemate Appreciate It. That was a signal to Mullins to change tactics and they haven’t looked back since.

“Since we got beaten in Punchestown in the John Durkan, we’ve been all forward with him,” he said. “Paul just rode him like a racehorse and I could see the other way wasn’t working last year. He was just too free and less mature; now he’s way more mature and settled in his races, and much easier to ride, I think.

“Paul has full confidence in him - he has more confidence in him than I have, I think, and I can see why - he’s obviously getting that sort of feel from the saddle all along.”

Galopin Des Champs’s biggest threat next season may come from within Closutton via Fact To File but Mullins was quick to point out the fragility of staying chasers and indeed, the biggest battle is to just get him lining up in 12 months time. He was available to back at 7/2 to emulate Best Mate.

Paul Townend has ridden all four of Mullins’s Gold Cup winners on two horses. It was obvious to see the regard in which he holds this blue riband contest.

Reflecting on the race he said: “He was brave the whole way around. The loose one was interfering with us a bit and it was messy, but what he found from the back of the last…

“He got up the hill last year, but that was a different kind of ride and we’d conserved everything. We did it the hard way this year.

“I don’t even remember my thought process in dealing with the loose horse to be honest. All you are doing is reacting in a split second, so it’s kind of instinct and luck.

“It’s easy when you are riding for Willie. You can go out and do things, change things. It actually went to Plan A probably, but if it didn’t you have free rein to change it up, and that’s the privilege of riding for the great man.”