‘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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After winning his chase debut, Mullins suggests Sir Gerhard as a likely target for Cheltenham.

Following his first victory over fences, Sir Gerhard will immediately attend the Cheltenham Festival, and Willie Mullins has designated the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase as his most likely target at the meeting.

The eight-year-old horse, whose impressive resume includes the Champion Bumper and the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, won easily in his first start since April.

Despite winning over the two-mile trip at Gowran Park, he remains unchanged at 6-1 for the Turner’s Novices Chase and 10-1 for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase with Paddy Power. However, the latter race is the preferred target. Additionally, he is entered in the Arkle, Champion Hurdle, and Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Mullins said: “It’ll be too soon to run again so he’ll probably go there on today’s run. I think we’ll be going for a longer trip, he’d be going a couple of miles an hour slower than he would in the Arkle so there’s the two and a half or three miles. He isn’t in the National Hunt Chase. I think the three miles, the Brown Advisory, but you know me. He has to come out of that race first so we’ll see.”

Sir Gerhard put on a solid jumping display despite making a mistake at the fence in front of the stands.

The performance, especially at the end, was well received by connections. Mullins continued, “He didn’t impress me for the first mile and a half. I didn’t know what to think. Paul [Townend] said to me after the race that he thought he was on a schooling day, he wasn’t racing.”

“After the fourth last when he sent him up the inside he said it clicked in and it was like turning on the turbo, he turned into a racehorse who wanted to race. From there it was very impressive and when Paul told me that, I thought it was a good performance then.”


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Could Grangeclare West be yet another class act for Willie Mullins? “He has a huge engine”:

Sunday: 2.20 Naas
Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) | 2m3f212y | 5yo+

The last seven favorites have won this Grade 1 race, including Bob Olinger and Envoi Allen, who went on to win the Ballymore. Grangeclare West will be trying to continue that pattern.

Willie Mullins, who has won this race eight times, could have run Gaelic Warrior, who finished second to Boodles and won at Tramore by 86 lengths in his only start this season.

He is not in the lineup at all, and Mullins has chosen Grangeclare West to lead his challenge instead. In November, the unbeaten seven-year-old won his first hurdles race at Navan by 13 lengths after sprinting clear of the last. At the time, it looked like a hot maiden, but it doesn’t anymore.

Since then, the second and third horses have lost, and none of the 12 horses that left the race and ran again have won. Grangeclare West, on the other hand, could only win, and he did so with skill.

The son of Presenting scored at Navan with a Racing Post Rating of 140, 5 pounds less than Dawn Rising’s victory over American Mike in the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle on the same day.

The time comparison is the most interesting aspect. Dawn Rising beat Grangeclare West by 3.8 seconds to win the 2m4f maiden hurdle in a time of 5min 17.20sec. Take what you want from that. Despite the fact that they were different races that were run in different ways, it’s still fascinating to see the six-year-old trained by Joseph O’Brien win in a shorter amount of time and at a higher price.

Dawn Rising appears to be a foregone conclusion. On his final Flat start, the son of Galileo defeated Al Aasy in the Bahrain Trophy, earning a rating of 102. Expect him to return strongly given that there appears to be a lot of pace here. When he scored late at Navan, he defied Betfair’s in-running high of 499-1.

When it appeared that Affordale Fury had won his argument with American Mike, he dropped to evens in the same race and finished last. Could he have been overlooked here?

You could certainly argue that Irish Point is the best form. Last time, he was close to winning the Royal Bond, but Supreme-bound Marine Nationale caught him too late. Given that this was only his second start over hurdles, he put in a strong effort, and he could be even better over this longer distance. Gordon Elliott, who has won four of the last six races, must have a big chance with him.

Paul Townend admitted that he was surprised by the manner in which he won the maiden hurdle at Navan in November, describing his jumping as “brilliant,” and he named West Grangeclare West as his primary threat to the race.

With McKinley in 2015 and Next Destination three years later, Townend has won this race twice. The five-time champion jockey believes that Inothewayurthinkin could be his biggest threat.

Townend stated, “This is a hot race every year and fits in well with the calendar. Grangeclare West won a competitive maiden hurdle at Navan and the manner in which he won it surprised us after being off the track for so long. He jumped brilliantly that day and did things right. I think he has a huge engine. He missed a lot of time after winning at Punchestown in May of 2021 but he seems to be fine now and I hope we can make up for lost time.”

Townend added in his Ladbrokes blog post: “Irish Point was second in the Royal Bond and that is a high level of form to bring here. I do like Inothewayurthinkin. He beat me quite snugly at Cork when I rode Lot Of Joy and then did well to get up to beat Imagine at Gowran in a slowly run race the last day. I think the step up in trip will suit him as well. I hope I’m on the right one and it will be a cracking renewal.”




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