Cheltenham: Galopin des Champs gallops away from field to Gold Cup triumph

Galopin Des Champs ridden by Paul Townend (left) and trained by Willie Mullins on their way to winning the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on day four of the Cheltenham Festival.

Galopin Des Champs and Paul Townend powered clear of Bravemansgame to justify favouritism and land the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup, giving Willie Mullins chasing’s blue riband for a third time in five years.

In an eventful renewal, Ahoy Senor set a searching gallop until getting too close to the sixth fence from home and crumpling on landing.

Townend had bided his time, tracking the early pace before getting into contention coming down the hill, tailing Protektorat, Bravemansgame and Hewick, who had been left in front.

He crashed through the third-last, which almost cost him the race, but quickly recovered and by the time American Grand National hero Hewick had come to grief two out, Irish Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs had gone upsides Harry Cobden and the Paul Nicholls-trained Bravemansgame.

Both jumped the last on a good stride, but the King George winner could not find the same turn of foot as Townend drew clear.

Galopin Des Champs (7-5 favourite) had seven lengths to spare at the line, with Conflated a further sixth and a half lengths down in third, with last year’s Grand National hero Noble Yeats fourth.

While he was unproven over the distance, Galopin's stamina was never in doubt as he outstayed Bravemansgame up the Cheltenham hill to claim an impressive seven-length verdict.

Previous race winners Minella Indo and A Plus Tard lined up again, but neither ever looked like landing a real blow and were pulled up, while Ahoy Senor fell after setting out to make all, bringing down Sounds Russian in the process.

Townend told ITV Racing: “It wasn’t plain sailing, that’s for sure. Everywhere I went there was a bit of trouble, his jumping just got a bit careful for 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’s a proper, proper horse because he’s run about three different races and still won a Gold Cup.

“I could see them all going at it in front of me and it allowed me to fill up and be the last one on the scene. If they’d have sat in front of me and quickened, I’d have had to chase them but it just gave me a chance to fill him up after making up a lot of ground.

“This is race is just different.”

Mullins said: “I didn’t realise the pressure I was under. I’m absolutely delighted for Audrey Turley (owner), Paul was under huge pressure too and gave him a peach of a ride.

“The plan was to drop him in and come through, I said to him ‘I think you’re on the best horse, the fastest horse, so as long as he doesn’t get running with you just tuck him in somewhere and put him asleep’ – and he did.

“It just worked out, he gave him a brilliant, cool ride. Everyone was questioning the distance and his stamina, they were going to make it plenty fast so I didn’t want him up there in the early exchanges.

“If he has the class, he’ll come through, if he hasn’t then there’s no point.

“All the thoughts go through your head, have we gone too far back? They had gone such a gallop, something had to give.

“One or two fell and we missed all that, we’d a lot of luck. I think that man on board, when the pressure comes on, he’s very good.”

He added: “I was surprised myself how I was over the last two fences. With this horse, we’d elected him as our Gold Cup horse whereas Al Boum Photo sort of just happened. This fellow, we thought he was good enough and that puts you under pressure.

“Every time we’ve upped him in trip, it’s been no problem. He has that bit of class, you could run him over two miles, two and a half miles. He has that bit of speed when you want it.”

Owner Audrey Turley added: “It’s like a dream come true. It’s something I never dreamt of, I never thought we would be here with such a wonderful horse as Galopin Des Champs. Really and truly, myself, my daughter Sarah and my husband, we’re just so thrilled.

“We’ve huge support here, all our family are here, so the excitement has been high all week. Well actually, for much longer than that.

“I don’t know what to say! It’s just so unbelievable and wonderful. Really we just have to thank magnificent Willie Mullins and all the team at Closutton, we wouldn’t be here having this wonderful day without them.

“We’re going to forget all that (last year, when the horse fell at the last fence), these things happen and in racing anything can happen as we know. Here we are, beautiful sunshine and Galopin has won – we’re thrilled.”

Hewick was also crashed out at the last, but all three horses were soon on their feet again.