Galopin set for a Champs’ reception in the Gold Cup
IT COULD be time for a new staying superstar to step forward in this year’s Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30pm), as Willie Mullins’ GALOPIN DES CHAMPS sets his sights on the biggest prize in National Hunt racing.
This horse has been a revelation since winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle at the Festival two years ago, backing that up with Grade One success at the Punchestown Festival at the end of that season.
However, it’s only since being sent chasing that we’ve begun to see Galopin Des Champs’ true potential.
Barring a final fence fall when having the Turners’ Novices’ Chase at his mercy last year, he would be a perfect six from six over fences, and for a long time has been the short-priced favourite for this race.
While he was more workmanlike than impressive when winning the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last time, what was noticeable was how strongly he finished, with Paul Townend struggling to pull him up after the line.
That dispels fears about him failing to stay this extra two furlongs, and we know he goes well round Cheltenham – should be two from two here – and will handle testing conditions.
He could be a very special horse and looks the most likely winner, so I certainly won’t be deserting him at 7/4 with William Hill.
Stattler locks horns again with Galopin Des Champs after being beaten eight lengths by his stablemate at Leopardstown last time.
A ready winner of the National Hunt Novices’ Chase at the Festival last year, he has deep reserves of stamina and will be suited by the demands of this race more than the Irish Gold Cup.
The rain that has fallen throughout this week is a major negative to his chances though, as he looks a better horse on good ground, and that’s enough for me to look elsewhere.
Conditions on Friday are going to be as testing – as we’ve already seen this week – and they have come right in time for PROTEKTORAT.
Dan Skelton’s eight-year-old is known to thrive on heavy ground, as we saw when he motored through Haydock soft to blow away his rivals in the Betfair Chase in October.
After finishing third behind A Plus Tard in this race 12 months ago, a return to this contest has always been the plan, and it’s likely he needed the run in the Cotswold Chase last time.
He looked to be travelling well under Harry Skelton running down to the third last that day, but weakened quickly rounding the home turn.
Much better can be expected now and, with conditions in his favour, he has strong claims of improving on last year’s placing at 18/1 with William Hill.
There are plenty of others with chances, including of course last year’s winner A Plus Tard.
It’s almost unthinkable that Henry de Bromhead’s runner would be priced at 4/1 in this race after last year’s triumph, but he hasn’t been seen since a listless run when pulling up in the Betfair Chase and his wellbeing remains a concern.
Connections of NOBLE YEATS will have eyes on a date with destiny at Aintree next month when their horse will attempt to win back-to-back Grand Nationals.
It doesn’t get bigger than having a runner in the Gold Cup though, and we can be assured that Emmet Mullins will have him spot on for this task.
He caught the eye when a good staying-on third in the Cotswold Chase last time and will relish what is likely to become a slog in the conditions.
If he’s still in touch turning for home, he’ll be a danger to all, and I can’t leave him out each-way at 12/1 with William Hill.
BILL ESDAILE’S CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP 1-2-3
- Galopin Des Champs
- Noble Yeats