Galopin Des Champs became a third Cheltenham Gold Cup win for both trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend following Al Boum Photo (2019, 2020) at the Cheltenham Festival today.
The seven year old came home the comfortable seven-length winner from Bravemansgame.
Willie Mullins said: “I didn’t realise what pressure I was under. I’m absolutely delighted for Audrey and Greg Turley and for Paul (Townend), who was under huge pressure to, but he gave him a peach of a ride. He had the confidence to drop him in and come through.
I just said to him I think you are on the best horse and the fastest horse so as long as he doesn’t get running with you. He said he will tuck him in somewhere and put him to sleep and he did. It just worked out and he give him a brilliant cool ride. We thought that (it was going to be a true test) as everyone was questioning his stamina.
“They were going to plenty fast enough so I didn’t want him up in there in the early stages. I thought if he has the class he will come through but if he hasn’t fair point. All thoughts were going through my head like are we too far back but they went such a gallop something had to give. One or two fell and we missed all that so we had a lot of luck as well. I think that man on board when the pressure comes on he is very good. I was surprised myself how I was over the last two fences.
“We elected him as our Gold Cup horse where as Al Boum Photo sort of happened and with this fellow we thought he was good enough and that puts you under pressure until the actual day when it has happened and now it has happened. He is brilliant under pressure and the more pressure the better he rides. I’m delighted for Paul because it is a tough job and he handles it well and I can be tough too. He stayed so well. The fact he won over three miles as a novice hurdler (gave us confidence he would stay) and every time we upped him in trip there was no problem.
“He has that little bit of class you could run him over two miles, two and a half miles. He has that little bit of speed when you want it. You just have to conserve it. Over those shorter trips he likes to get on with the job and that was to me the whole key today not to let him get running early on in the race. He would have got to free otherwise and it would have played into the others hands. There are certain ways you can train them to do that (get them to settle) and eventually they listen. He was not a runaway he was just keen.
“I wouldn’t say that (it ranks above other Gold Cup wins). There was just more pressure that was all. That was the most pressure I’ve felt. We felt we stuck our necks out and said he is a Gold Cup horse. Last year here he ballooned the first four fences and I said to Paul I don’t want you up there I want you to get over the first four fences and get him settled.”
Paul Townend said: “It was messy for me – I couldn’t get a clean passage early, and he started jumping in the air a little bit, but when I got a bit of room, in fairness to him he came back into a rhythm with me and was very, very brave. I think he got me out of a fair hole, to be honest – I was a lot further back than I wanted to be, but it was just the ride I had to give him.
“There was so little fresh ground that everyone wanted to be in it, and the start was very messy. I think we didn’t get the rub of the green at the start and that put us on the back foot, but when you have that little bit of ground, no one wants to be out off it. He was good and brave. There were horses going left of me and right of me [when the two horses fell at the top of the hill] and he always just found a leg, and you need that luck in racing.
“He missed one of the fences coming down the hill, and I thought that was going to put me on the back foot a bit again, but no, straight back on the bridle for me. I don’t think the horse understands how good he is, to be honest.
“I was happy that when I grabbed hold of him and he picked up for me again, got straight at the last and galloped all the way up the hill and through the line. There’s no doubting his stamina now, anyway.
“He’s matured, he’s grown up. He’s a bit older, a bit wiser [than last year]. I suppose he surprised me how well he settled the first day [his seasonal debut] at Punchestown, and then going to Leopardstown, I was half-afraid to light him up to see what would happen, but I did away from the stands that day and he came back underneath me after a big jump, so he’s just the full package now. He has to be to win from where I came from, I think!
“We’ve had a good week. But I like to take it race by race, win, lose or draw, and move on to the next one, so I haven’t been looking at the winners or the losers up to now, and we’re not finished yet.
“The Gold Cup brings winning to a different level. Cheltenham is very important, but the Gold Cup just has that little bit more spice to it.”
Townend will go from winning the Gold Cup in front of nearly 70,000 fans today to riding three horses at Thurles in Ireland tomorrow.
He said: “We have to do all those days at the smaller meetings to get these days. That is where these horses start and hopefully we might find another champion there tomorrow.
“It is easy to switch between racing here and somewhere like tomorrow when they are winning!”
Audrey Turley, the winning owner, told ITV Racing: “It’s like a dream come true. It’s like something I’ve never dreamt of. We never thought we would be here with such a wonderful horse as Galopin Des Champs, winning the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. Really and truly myself, my daughter Sarah and my husband Greg, we are just so thrilled. We’ve huge support here, all our family are here so the excitement has been high all week, well actually much longer than that.
“I am [shaking] I don’t know what to say, what to think, what to say! It’s just so unbelievable and wonderful. And really we have to thank magnificent Willie Mullins and all the team in Closutton. We wouldn’t be here, having this wonderful day without them. They have just been fantastic. We are going to forget all of that [last year], these things happen and in racing anything can happen as we know. So here we are today, beautiful sunshine day, Galopin has won and we are thrilled.”
Groom Adam Connolly, leading up, told ITV Racing: “I am absolutely over the moon. Came here last year and thought he was going to absolutely sluice up and just came down. And I said all year he could make for the Gold Cup and I’m glad he’s done it now.”
Paul Nicholls, trainer of the runner-up Bravemansgame (6-1), said: “What can you say, I’m just super proud of him and everything went right. He jumped well and he travelled well and I could just see Galopin stalking him a little bit. We wouldn’t do any different.
“I hate coming second, you know me, but I can’t be anything but proud of the horse. He ran a blinding race and we’ll give it another go next year. We’ll see about Aintree, he had a hard race. The only places he’ll run are Punchestown and Aintree, but we’ll play it by ear and see how he is. If he didn’t run again this season it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but he’s only run once since Christmas so we could go to Aintree. We’ve got Clan Des Obeaux coming along nicely for that. He’s a young horse, so three or four runs a year is plenty and if we don’t run again we’ll go Charlie Hall, King George and again here next year.
“The winner is a very good horse and he looks a superstar. One of the best.”
Harry Cobden, rider of Bravemansgame, told ITV Racing: “He ran a phenomenal race. Had a lovely run though. I thought it would take a good one to get by us turning in and along looms Galopin Des Champs. He’s run a hell of a race, very pleased. No-one remembers the seconds do they, but I’m so pleased for the horse, so pleased that he jumped round and happy for the connections. I’m just thinking how we are going to come back next year and beat him!”
Gordon Elliott, trainer of the third home Conflated, said: “He has run his heart out in what was a fantastic race and I am very proud of him. If he is in good form he could go to Punchestown next but he has had a proper race there.
“Davy (Russell) was sore and to be honest I haven’t really spoken to him much but when I saw him he said he was sore so it looks like he was kicked. Sam gave the horse a brilliant ride. We can build for the future, I told the young lads I’d give them chances and if they keep riding like this we’ll be fine.”
Michael O’Leary, owner of Conflated, said: “I think he ran a great race. It was a terrific ride. It was an excellent race and I think the best horse won and that’s how it was always going to be. It’s the Gold Cup and the best horse wins.
“We got involved in a bit of a scrimmage at the top of the hill but I don’t think it would have made any difference. The two horses on our outside were cruising so the writing was on the wall there. He’s the best horse and he’s been the best horse so it’s the right result.”
Sam Ewing, jockey of the third-placed Conflated (22-1), said: “I’m absolutely delighted, he ran a blinder. He jumped and settled throughout and I couldn’t be happier with the run.”
Sean Bowen, jockey of the fourth-placed Noble Yeats (14-1), commented: “He ran well. It was hard old work throughout the race but he’s come home well.”
Noble Yeats’ owner Robert Waley-Cohen said: “If the ground had been softer I think he may have been closer at the finish as he was steaming up the hill finishing with a flourish when the race was more or less over. If he is in good heart after that all roads will lead to Aintree again where he will be trying to win the Grand National again.”
Sam Waley-Cohen, who rode Noble Yeats to win the Randox Grand National in 2022, said: “I actually wasn’t disappointed with that. I think he’s shown what he has shown in previous runs, that in the middle of a race he hasn’t always found it the easiest. He’s stayed on well and galloped all the way up the hill so in many ways it was a good Grand National trial. To finish fourth as a Grand National winner is no bad thing. It was a step up in terms of what he’s done and he probably has stepped up. The winner is a fabulous horse, he jumped the last like a buck and won incredibly so well done to them all. Paul is a class rider and class is permanent.”
Hewick was running a superb race for John ‘Shark’ Hanlon until taking an awkward fall at the second last but the Carlow based trainer confirmed on social media that the horse suffered no ill effects for it.
Nico de Boinville (Minella Indo, Pulled Up): “Messy start.”
Jordan Gainford (Hewick, fell two out): “Unbelievable [spin]. He’s a tough, tough horse. Even when Derek fell, I was safe away. He was just unlucky on his landing at the second last, but absolutely ran a cracker. Delighted with him.”
Patrick Mullins (Stattler, Pulled up): “Never going, very disappointing.”
Derek Fox (Ahoy Senor, Fell): “He was travelling nicely until that happened, but hopefully he will be alright for another day.”
Sean Quinlan (Sounds Russian, brought down): “I was probably in top gear the whole way. His jumping was keeping him in it, but he was just probably getting a little bit tired when he got brought down.”
Harry Skelton (Protektorat, Fourth): “He ran an absolute blinder, no excuses at all. He gave his all and ran very well.”
Rachael Blackmore (A Plus Tard, Pulled up): “He just got hampered by those two fallers and we were on the back foot then. He was fine [when I pulled up], he’s all good.”
Charlie Deutch (Royal Pagaille, 6th): “Went a fierce gallop, I just had to sit where I was. He jumped brilliantly, no excuses, kept galloping, got a bit tired after the last, just they had a bit more pace on the last circuit.”