LIZZIE KELLY: Exciting Galopin Des Champs is galloping towards Festival glory for trainer Willie Mullins
- Galopin Des Champs faces rival Master McShee at Leopardstown on Sunday
- Chacun Pour Soi will seek to bounce back from below-par run at Sandown
- Trainer Emma Lavelle remains confident that Paisley Park can back to his best
We could have a clearer view of the Cheltenham Festival after this weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival and the horse I am most looking forward to seeing is Galopin Des Champs.
He was special when winning by more than 20 lengths on his chasing debut at Christmas, building on a hurdling campaign last season which saw him win the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle.
Trainer Willie Mullins has won the race with horses who went on to be top-class chasers — Don Poli, Sir Des Champs and Killultagh Vic — but Galopin Des Champs could be the best of the lot.
Galopin Des Champs won on his chasing debut after an impressive hurdling campaign
There is a David-versus-Goliath element to Sunday’s Grade One Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase, with one of the main rivals to Galopin Des Champs being Grade One winner Master McShee, one of just a handful of horses in the care of farmer-turned-mechanic Paddy Corkery.
But if things go to plan for Galopin Des Champs expect a surfeit of superlatives.
How 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo bounces back from being pulled up in the King George VI Chase will be a focus of Saturday’s Irish Gold Cup.
Chacun Pour Soi will seek to bounce back from Sandown setback in Sunday’s Dublin Chase
Chacun Pour Soi, trained by Mullins, will try to erase memories of a below-par performance in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in Sunday’s Dublin Chase as he tries to muscle into a Queen Mother Champion Chase picture dominated by Shishkin and Energumene.
It will also be fascinating to see if the Mullins-trained 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Appreciate It can get close to unbeaten Honeysuckle in Sunday’s Irish Champion Hurdle on his belated seasonal debut.
Paisley Park has become a bit of an enigma but trainer Emma Lavelle and her team remained confident that they could get him back to his best and his stirring win in Saturday’s Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham will live long in the memory.
To give away the best part of 20 lengths at the start and still win by three lengths was simply astonishing.
Trainer Emma Lavelle remains confident that Paisley Park can back to his best
It would be great to see Paisley Park run well at the Festival and repeat his 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle win but my concern would be Aidan Coleman’s post-race comment that his mount had been threatening to refuse to start for a while.
If he does the same again at the Festival and forfeits ground, pegging back front-running defending champion Flooring Porter will be tough.
Nico de Boinville produced a very good ride to get Chantry House to win Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase, taking his time on a mount who didn’t travel well during the race or jump fluently.
In the end Chantry House bounced back from being pulled up in the King George VI Chase and outstayed Santini and Aye Right, but it was not a performance that left you thinking you had seen a Gold Cup winner.
At this stage, the feature race of the Festival looks like it will be heading to Ireland for the fourth year in a row unless Protektorat, the Dan Skelton-trained winner of the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree, can do something about it.