19 March 2024

Galopin Des Champs parades to hero’s welcome in Leighlinbridge

19 March 2024

Galopin Des Champs was once again welcomed home by an adoring crowd as the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner paraded before locals in the village of Leighlinbridge in County Carlow on Tuesday evening.

Victorious in the pinnacle of National Hunt racing last year, this time the Willie Mullins-trained gelding was able to take his career to the next level when becoming one of a select few to retain the title.

The 11-10 favourite under Paul Townend, Galopin Des Champs never looked threatened by any of his rivals and it was only the loose Fastorslow that ever threatened to thwart a repeat of last year’s triumph.

Victorious by three and a half lengths from Gordon Elliott’s Gerri Colombe, the Audrey Turley-owned eight-year-old has put his name among the greats of the race and next year could join the likes of the mighty Arkle and Best Mate as a three-time winner.

Galopin Des Champs was joined by State Man, winner of the Champion Hurdle in a another memorable meeting for Mullins, with his nine-winner haul including his 100th Festival success when Jasmin De Vaux took the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

“He’s much more mature and more settled this year,” said Mullins.

“I think it shows he has improved, and it will take a lot less out of him as well. That means he can race for longer, it will extend his career that he’s not running too free and extending himself too much in the early part of a race.

“He’s at that age now when he’s strong and mature enough, he’s answered every question.

“At the moment he’s going to Punchestown. I’m very happy that he’s a tough, hardy horse. There’s good prize-money there and I’m hoping we’ll be able to go there.”

On his remarkable achievement of training 100 Cheltenham Festival winners, he said: “Look at Nicky Henderson, we always pray that something like that doesn’t happen to us.

“His horses just got sick the week of the races, and it’s like a team in a football final say getting food poisoning the night before the match and everyone is sick. It’s the one fear of every sporting organisation, not just racehorse trainers.

“You never know, people expect us to get those winners. We go over there hoping to get the winners – there’s a big difference between that and expecting. Nothing is given.

“We take nothing for granted. But I must say I thought the horses were in spectacular form at home this year and the run-up to the Festival went so well.

“That (son Patrick riding his 100th winner) was the icing on the cake.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox