- The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old looked set to dominate the sport
- Galopin Des Champs won the Cheltenham Gold Cup by seven lengths in March
- Defeats at Punchestown in April and November left critics wondering
Galopin Des Champs showed he could become one of the all-time greats by answering his doubters in spectacular fashion in yesterday’s Savills Chase at Leopardstown.
When Galopin Des Champs won last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup with such swaggering dominance, he was mentioned in the same breath as Kauto Star. But subsequent defeats at Punchestown, in April and November, had left critics wondering if that praise was premature.
Connections of the Willie Mullins-trained chaser knew there was a huge amount riding on his performance yesterday, particularly as the field included the up-and-coming Gerri Colombe.
But any nerves they felt were quickly dispelled as Galopin Des Champs ran a high-class field ragged. There was a chasm between him and his pursuers, headed by a legless Gerri Colombe, with a winning distance of 23 lengths.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old looked set to dominate the sport
Jockey Paul Townend celebrates on Galopin Des Champs after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase race on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival in March
Patrick Mullins, assistant trainer to his father, claimed that Galopin Des Champs ‘didn’t jump well in the John Durkan’ but he has improved since
Bookmakers scurried for cover, cutting Galopin Des Champs to 5-4 favourite to retain the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 15. If the gelding wins the Irish Gold Cup on his next start in February, when he will meet yesterday’s late non-runner Fastorslow, he will be odds-on for Cheltenham.
‘It was up there with the best performance he has ever produced,’ said winning rider Paul Townend. ‘When the big guns get beaten, there is extra pressure and it was a relief as much as anything. We knew we had something to prove.
‘I was happy with him at all stages. I loved the way he took on the first fence and from there I was very happy. He was happy, I was happy! It was pretty simple, to be honest.’
Fastorslow won the two races in which Galopin Des Champs faltered — the Punchestown Gold Cup and the John Durkan Chase — and trainer Martin Brassil didn’t want to subject his horse to a gruelling race on heavy ground.
‘Fastorslow deserves more credit than he’s getting and he is going to be a force,’ said Townend. ‘But if this Galopin Des Champs turns up, he is going to be very hard to beat. All credit to Willie for getting him back to form.’
A big day for Mullins was rounded off by a dominant showing from Gaelic Warrior in a Grade One at Limerick, though his son Patrick, who rode Gaelic Warrior, had a row with his nephew, Danny, who rode runner-up Il Etait Temps, after they crossed the line.