Will Mullins mould Galopin Des Champs into a Gold Cup winner?

Galopin Des Champs suffered one of the most excruciating defeats at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, suffering a fall at the final fence of the Turners’ Novices Chase. Willie Mullins’ horse appeared to be on the precipice of a dominant win in the event, in what was touted as a fiercely contested duel against Bob Olinger.

The French thoroughbred blew his rival away with his pace on the track and had only one fence to clear before entering the straight. However, Paul Townend and Galopin Des Champs misjudged the final jump, sending the horse too far forward, resulting in a fall. It presented the race to Bob Olinger and Rachael Blackmore to canter over the line well ahead of the rest of the field.

Galopin Des Champs responded at the first attempt to get back to winning ways to end the term, and has now been touted as the early favourite for a bet on horse racing with Paddy Power to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2023. A Plus Tard will not relinquish his crown lightly after a hugely impressive performance to win the 2022 event, and will be heavily backed in the Cheltenham tips for a repeat success.

Mullins’ charge does have the potential to defeat A Plus Tard, although the proof will come over the course of the 2022/23 National Hunt season. Henry de Bromhead’s charge proved his quality with a victory in the Lancashire Chase before narrowly losing out to Galvin in the Savills’ Chase at Leopardstown. He was primed and ready for the Gold Cup after finishing second behind Minella Indo in 2021, and Blackmore ensured that he was on song on the track to race home ahead of his stable-mate, reversing the one-two finish from the previous year.

That is the challenge for Mullins and Galopin Des Champs, although the Irishman does have a proud record in the Gold Cup having steered the great Al Boum Photo to back-to-back triumphs in 2019 and 2020. It will be interesting to see whether the Irishman places Galopin Des Champs on the same trajectory as his stable-mate in a potential build-up for the Gold Cup. Al Boum Photo was used sparingly by Mullins during the campaign, racing only once ahead of his victory in 2020 at Tramore in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase.

Galopin Des Champs could be used in the same manner, although he might be a horse that requires regular action to be fine-tuned ahead of his races. He has been active in the National Hunt in his two full seasons, racing five times in the 2020/21 campaign and another four last season. Mullins has not been shy in putting miles into the legs of his charge, but he may opt to focus on the elite races rather than regular action every two months.

After a four-week break, Galopin Des Champs was outstanding in his final race of the season, winning the Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse with a dominant run. If he can channel that momentum into the new campaign and refine his weaknesses, Mullins could have another Cheltenham Gold Cup winner on his hands.