Brilliant Townend leads Galopin Des Champs to epic Gold Cup triumph.
Incredible Gold Cup lives up to expectations with Galopin Des Champs galloping to glory under the brilliant Paul Townend.
A Gold Cup that was supposed to be epic lived up to that and more as Galopin Des Champs overcame his doubts about his stamina to win gloriously for the indomitable team of Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.
The handsome seven-year-old justified 7-5 favouritism by an emphatic seven lengths twelve months after his cruel final-fence exit with the Turners Novices’ Chase at his mercy. Those are the facts, and they appear to be unambiguous. However, in order to reach this magnificent location, Townend had to dodge obstacles that could have destroyed the script.
Galopin Des Champs was further behind than he had intended after a sluggish start, and the returning champion A Plus Tard, whom he had located inside at the back, frequently jumped across him. Townend narrowly avoided being knocked down when Ahoy Senor crashed while still in front six out, and stablemate Stattler also got in the way a little when retreating at pace before a circuit had been completed.
However, Townend had a partner with whom he could collaborate, and the improved Galopin Des Champs is a much more approachable model than she was last season. They were able to avoid the Ahoy Senor incident, in which Sounds Russian was brought down and A Plus Tard was severely hampered, by maneuvering a little wider with a circuit to go.
That put Hewick ahead, and Shark Hanlon’s rival was leading a gallant race when he crashed out two fences short of the finish line. Townend had just emerged from the final bend on Galopin Des Champs, avoiding the melee, having once more retreated behind horses for cover. This time, Lady Luck, who had left him on the horse a year ago, was riding shotgun.
“It was very close,” Townend said afterwards of the Ahoy Senor incident at the final ditch at the top of the hill. “We were landing on the back of horses early, horses going right and left in front of me, but he always found a leg. You need that luck. We didn’t have it last year but we got it this year. It was very messy early on and he did well to get back into a rhythm.”
The Gold Cup was a huge hit with fans because of how good the lineup was. Prestbury Park put on a race that satisfied the appetite of a Cotswolds community looking for something special. It was truly a delicious meal.
Bravemansgame had his impact in that, coming there to challenge close by Protektorat at the second-last wall. However, Galopin Des Champs had the move covered, and Townend had him in his sights. Rachael Blackmore’s strategies on A Plus Tard a year ago were mirrored in the course of the race, and Ireland’s champion jockey was still perched motionless before they crossed that fence. Galopin Des Champs lengthened as soon as Townend squeezed his legs when they landed half a length down. Before the winner turned the screw up the hill, he and Bravemansgame crossed the final fence in perfect harmony. Although it took a few steps to put daylight between them, his superiority at the line was undeniable.
After Al Boum Photo’s victories in 2019 and 2020, this was the trainer and jockey’s third victory, and it was a fitting end to the Closutton master’s week.
“I think we put ourselves under pressure by saying he has enough stamina to win a Gold Cup,” admitted a relieved Mullins. “I thought he had enough class to win a Gold Cup, but when Al Boum Photo won a Gold Cup there wasn’t a huge weight of expectation.
“But there was behind this guy. I didn’t realise how much pressure until about the third-last. He flew through it and then he came back on the bridle and I said, ‘It’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen’.”
He added: “Through the race you’re wondering, is he too far back? But I’d asked Paul to settle him, that they will try to sap his stamina and I said, ‘You’ve got the best horse, you’ve got the fastest horse, you just ride him like you’re on the fastest horse from the second-last home’. And that’s what he’s done. Paul is so good under pressure. And I’ve been putting him under fair pressure this week.”
Townend has long demonstrated his defiant ability to deliver when the going gets tough, as is the case with Mullins. His back was against the wall here after a mishmash of seven days, yet he arises with the main rider grant and his standing improved again, also the differentiation that main Pat Taaffe has ridden more Gold Cup champs than him.
“This race,” he said with that trademark cool disposition of his. “It’s just different. It brings winning to a different level.”
Of the route they had to endure, he added: “It wasn’t clean sailing anyway, that’s for sure. Everywhere I went I was running into a bit of trouble. His jumping got a little bit careful on the first circuit but going out I had full faith in him that he was going to get me out of trouble. And he did. He is a proper, proper horse because he’s run about three different races and still won a Gold Cup.”
Galopin Des Champs, a son of Timos, is owned by Audrey Turley and her businessman husband Greg, who lives in Dublin.
“It’s like a dream come true,” gushed Audrey Turley. “It’s like something I’ve never dreamed of. We never thought we’d be here with such a wonderful horse as Galopin Des Champs, winning the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. I don’t know what to say, what to think. It’s just so unbelievable and wonderful.”
Minella Indo did not start the game and never got going before Blackmore pulled her up. Blackmore also pulled up A Plus Tard after he was hampered and lost his chance. After Sam Ewing was drafted late to replace a “sore” Davy Russell, Conflated ran a blinder to finish third, but Protektorat’s challenge faded up the hill. Noble Yeats kept going like a lion after being nearly slowed down at the top of the hill to somehow finish fourth, six and a half lengths behind.
The Grand National winner’s effort in a captivating Gold Cup confirmed that the balance of power remains firmly held across the Irish Sea. The majority of it appears to be in Closutton, County Carlow. a destination for champions.
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