All eyes on Galopin Des Champs in Irish Gold Cup.
If Galopin Des Champs wins the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup on Saturday at Leopardstown, he will improve his chances of winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Amazingly, the seven-year-old colt trained by Willie Mullins finished the Dublin Racing Festival two years ago as a 100-1 no-hoper.
However, his only blemish since then has been in the Turners Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last year, when he was about to give Bob Olinger a wide margin beating but slipped on landing after the last.
He made amends in April at Fairyhouse, and he began this campaign with a straightforward victory in the Punchestown John Durkan. Even though he won a Grade One race over three miles in his hurdling days, this will be his first fences race over the distance.
“He handled Leopardstown very well last year, which is why I don’t have much trouble going back there. He is a big horse, but when he handled the track there last year I’m happy to go back,” said Mullins.
“He does things in his races so easy, except for his little blip in Cheltenham last year where he slipped on landing.
“He’s never been over this trip over fences, but he has over hurdles and I was never really worried about his stamina. He always showed a nice turn of foot and we’ll find out, but I think he shouldn’t have any problem with it.”
In his blog for Ladbrokes, Paul Townend stated that he would steer the ship: “Galopin Des Champs really impressed me in the John Durkan. I love the way he settles and that will give him a brilliant chance of getting home.
“He is on the road for the Gold Cup so he will have to win this if he wants to be favourite for Cheltenham. We will focus on winning this first before getting ahead of ourselves. I think he will take a lot of beating, though.”
Franco De Port, a Leopardstown regular who won the race in 2021, and Kemboy and Stattler, winners of the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham who will be reunited with Patrick Mullins, are also under the care of the champion trainer.
On his seasonal return, he finished second to 2021 Gold Cup winner Minella Indo at Tramore, but he was giving up 8 pounds.
His rider said: “I’m delighted to get back on him. Look, Galopin Des Champs is going to be very difficult to beat and Kemboy and Fury Road set a good benchmark, too, but I’m hoping he will be above that benchmark – I’d be hoping we can finish second and you never know.
“It was a great run at Tramore giving all that weight, especially as it was a home game for Minella Indo as he is only five minutes down the road.
“It was a close finish but I don’t think it was a hard race, they only hacked around before sprinting home. He should come forward from that.
“Obviously Stattler stays well, but I don’t think he’s slow. He’s a young horse who is improving and I’m hoping we haven’t seen the best of him yet.”
Any Second Now by Ted Walsh, The Bog Dog by Peter Fahey, and Fury Road by Gordon Elliott, who finished third to Conflated’s stablemate in the Savills Chase last time out, will compete against team Mullins.
“He’s in good form. It is a very competitive race and he faces a big step up. He ran well the last day at Leopardstown, so hopefully he runs well again. It is never easy when they come out of novice company,” said Elliott.
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