Galopin Des Champs crowned Cheltenham Gold Cup king.
Willie Mullins has won the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup for the third time in five years thanks to Galopin Des Champs and Paul Townend’s dominant victory over Bravemansgame.
Ahoy Senor ran an exciting renewal at a searching gallop until he got too close to the sixth fence from home and fell hard.
Townend had waited his turn, following the early pace before catching Protektorat, Bravemansgame, and Hewick, who had been left in front, coming down the hill.
He nearly lost the race when he crashed through the third last turn, but he quickly recovered, and Irish Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs had defeated Harry Cobden and the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame when American Grand National hero Hewick came to grief two out.
Both jumped the last with good stride, but as Townend advanced, the King George winner lacked the same footwork.
At the finish, Galopin Des Champs (7-5 favorite) led by seven lengths, with Conflated third by six and a half lengths.
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 – like Mullins winning this third Gold Cup – said: “It was messy for me – I couldn’t get a clean passage early, and he started jumping in the air a little bit, but when I got a bit of room, in fairness to him he came back into a rhythm with me and was very, very brave.
“I think he got me out of a fair hole, to be honest – I was a lot further back than I wanted to be, but it was just the ride I had to give him.
“There was so little fresh ground that everyone wanted to be in it, and the start was very messy.
“He was good and brave. There were horses going left of me and right of me (when the two horses fell at the top of the hill) and he always just found a leg, and you need that luck in racing.
“He missed one of the fences coming down the hill, and I thought that was going to put me on the back foot a bit again, but no, straight back on the bridle for me. I don’t think the horse understands how good he is, to be honest.”
He went on: “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.”