All eyes on the Gold Cup for Mullins with Galopin Des Champs
Willie Mullins is pinning his Cheltenham Gold Cup hopes on Galopin Des Champs – with no worries about the stamina-sapping trip at Prestbury Park.
Although a Grade One winner over three miles when competing over hurdles, the scopey six-year-old was kept to intermediate distances in his novice chasing campaign, winning his first two fences starts by a combined 31 lengths before falling at the last when set to record an emphatic victory in the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
He erased the demons of that heartbreaking tumble when securing his second Grade One with an 18-length success in the BoyleSports Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse and is now set to be trained with the Festival blue riband in mind as he looks to add to the Martin Pipe victory he secured in 2020.
“I hope he’s our Gold Cup horse for the year and he looks the part, he is doing everything right at home,” said Mullins.
“He had one little setback a couple of weeks ago, but he’s back doing everything right again now and that’s just horses they all have setbacks.”
Galopin Des Champs could kick off his campaign at Punchestown in the John Durkan, while his season could also involve following in the footsteps of Closutton’s two-time Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and competing at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
I would like to get a run into him early in December then go to Leopardstown at Christmas or Tramore on New Year's Day
He continued: “I would like to start him off in the John Durkan, but it’s December 11 this year which is quite near Christmas. I know we all worry about the ground at Leopardstown, but he has run round Leopardstown twice I think and has been fine.
“He’s a nice big horse, I know he doesn’t look it, but that is what I like about horses, I like horses who are tall because it means they are well proportioned and he’s light on his feet.
“I would like to get a run into him early in December then go to Leopardstown at Christmas or Tramore on New Year’s Day.”
On possible concerns about the three-and-a-quarter mile test of the Gold Cup, he added: “I have never had a worry about the trip, I would be worried about Allaho getting it, but Galopin I’ve never worried about that with him, the further he goes the better sort of thing.”
Another horse Mullins is excited to see hit the track this campaign is his impressive Champion Bumper winner Facile Vega.
Four from four last season, the high-class five-year-old, who is out of Mullins’ six-time Mares’ Hurdle winner Quevega, is to embark on a novice hurdle campaign which could ultimately lead to a return to Gloucestershire next spring.
“Over the years I haven’t seen a horse I am looking forward to as much as Facile Vega,” said Mullins.
With the turn of foot he showed in bumpers he would be a Supreme Novices' Hurdle horse and with his pedigree he would be a Ballymore horse
“All the time I’m trying to keep him sound and he’s been very sound and very good. He will go novice hurdling and with the turn of foot he showed in bumpers he would be a Supreme Novices’ Hurdle horse and with his pedigree he would be a Ballymore horse.
“My whole aim this year is to try not to train him – David Porter rides him out and I keep telling David don’t let me work him too hard as I don’t think he needs to be worked too hard. We just need to get this conditioning work into him and then he’ll be fine and then we’ll get him away over hurdles when we get nice ground.”
While Galopin Des Champs and Facile Vega both have Cheltenham Festival victories to their name, one Closutton inmate still searching for his first strike at National Hunt’s showpiece meeting is Chacun Pour Soi, who was a beaten favourite in the 2021 Champion Chase and unseated Patrick Mullins in the same race earlier in the year.
His time at two miles appears to be over and the master of Closutton is keen to explore different trips with the 10-year-old this term.
He added: “Chacun is in great order. We’ve always just kept him at two miles because of his jumping, but I think at this stage I’m going to go out in trip with him and see if we can make more use of him going two and a half or two and three-quarters – maybe even three.
“I’m just going to be more adventurous with his trip. The John Durkan is probably the place I start off all those types of horses, so it’s as good a place as any to start with.”
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