‘As brilliant a ride as I’ve ever seen in any horserace’


After the Gold Cup masterclass, McCoy lavishes praise on Townend, describing his ride as “as brilliant as I’ve ever seen in any horserace.”

After leading the hot favourite Galopin Des Champs to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, Paul Townend was praised by multiple champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy for providing “as brilliant a ride as I have ever seen in a horserace.”

Galopin Des Champs, who was at the back of the field, picked off his rivals one by one to get through and challenge Bravemansgame at the last fence before soaring up the hill to win the race for Townend for the third time.

The skill and patience shown by Townend was extolled by McCoy. Asked what he made of the performance, he said: “As brilliant a ride as I have ever seen in a horserace – talk about riding a horse with bottle. Oh my god.

“Talk about pressure – the privilege of pressure – and oh my god he’s coped with it better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Townend has been criticised at various points throughout the week for his rides on the likes of Facile Vega in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Appreciate It in the Turners Novices’ Chase, while Galopin Des Champs was a faller at the final fence when clear in the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year.

Ruby Walsh praised Townend’s ability to ignore criticism and ride like he did on Galopin Des Champs, the Cheltenham Gold Cup’s market leader.

“I echo AP’s words completely,” he said. “You come to Cheltenham with all the pressure and to drop him in and ride him the way he rode him [was brilliant].

“He’s probably been listening to people like me giving out all week when he does something wrong, so to be able to put that all away and go and do what he’s just done I’m delighted for him. He deserves every plaudit he gets.”

He added: “There was brilliant race riding in there too. Harry Cobden [on Bravemansgame] kept it all tight off the home turn – it was a compelling race to watch. You wanted Bravemansgame and Galopin Des Champs going at it to the last – that’s what horseracing’s about. I thought it was magic.”

Winning trainer Willie Mullins said: “Paul is so good under pressure and I’ve been putting him under some fair pressure this week. It was a huge ride from Paul I thought – ride of the week anyway.”



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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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Paul Townend is impressed by the stylish Impaire Et Passe and says, “I think he’s very smart.”

Sunday: Punchestown, Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle

With an impressive performance in the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle, a Grade 2 race that Willie Mullins has used as a springboard for superstars like Vautour and Douvan, Impaire Et Passe made it two wins out of two over hurdles in Ireland.

The most important question is whether Impaire Et Passe will target the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle or the Ballymore. Sky Bet has dropped him to 11-2 (from 8) for the Supreme and to 6-1 (from 9) for the Ballymore.

Paul Townend had the 1-3 favorite close to the pace throughout the race, which was mostly run steadily and very tactical. He took control in the straight to win going away by six and a half lengths from good yardstick The Model Kingdom.

The previously unbeaten mare Shecouldbeanything, who withdrew for the majority of the race before becoming sluggish from the second turn, was eight lengths behind.

Townend was pleased and impressed by the winner’s performance because it appears that she does not show much on the gallops.

“As I said after he won at Naas, he does not show us that at home, but he showed a good turn of foot today,” he said. “I was very happy with him. He jumped like a buck and the only hurdle he was slow at was the last.”

“It’s hard to know how good he is because he shows so little at home yet does it on the track. I think he’s very smart and he gave me a great feel today.”

“He jumped only four hurdles at Naas, but how he jumped there was very good and he didn’t miss a beat today apart from the last, which I wouldn’t worry about.”

Townend provided the following response when asked about the return to two miles after winning over two miles and three furlongs the previous time: “It was a worry and the ground was soft enough, but he showed pace out there. Wherever he goes I wouldn’t mind being on his back.”

David Casey, the assistant trainer, said: “He did it all right. Paul said he didn’t do a huge amount in front and he had loads in the tank. He was a bit sharper than he was at Naas and he is going in the right direction.”

“Jumping fences will be his forte. To come back in trip like he did was good as well, especially on the sharp inside track here, and he is still learning. He will have all the entries [for Cheltenham].”

The Model Kingdom, the runner-up, delighted her trainer Noel Meade because she had excellent form against mares going into this.

“I would say there is every chance she’ll go to Cheltenham for the mares’ novice, the owners are mad keen to go,” said Meade.

“I would say that was as good a run as she’s had. The tongue-tie helped but the ground helped too. I think the ground at Thurles last time was probably too quick for her.”

“We are very happy with that. I don’t know if she’ll get up the hill at Cheltenham, but there’s only one way to find out.”


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