Irish Gold Cup: Mullins has no stamina fears for Galopin Des Champs

Fri 3 Feb 2023

Galopin Des Champs is a red-hot favourite to enhance his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims with victory in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday.

Incredibly the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old was sent off a 100-1 no-hoper at the Dublin Racing Festival two years ago.

Yet since then his only blemish was in last season’s Turners Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham when he was in the process of handing out a wide-margin beating to Bob Olinger only to slip on landing after the last.

He made amends at Fairyhouse in April and began this campaign with an easy win in the John Durkan at Punchestown. However, despite having a Grade One win in his hurdling days over three miles, this will be his first time over the trip when tackling fences.

“He handled Leopardstown very well last year, which is why I don’t have much trouble going back there. He is a big horse, but when he handled the track there last year I’m happy to go back,” said Mullins.

“He does things in his races so easy, except for his little blip in Cheltenham last year where he slipped on landing.

“He’s never been over this trip over fences, but he has over hurdles and I was never really worried about his stamina. He always showed a nice turn of foot and we’ll find out, but I think he shouldn’t have any problem with it.”

The champion trainer also runs Franco De Port, Leopardstown regular and 2021 Irish Gold Cup winner Kemboy and Stattler, the National Hunt Chase winner who will be reunited with Patrick Mullins.

He was second to 2021 Gold Cup winner Minella Indo at Tramore on his seasonal return but was conceding 8lb.

Stattler and Patrick Mullins on their way to victory at Cheltenham
Stattler and Patrick Mullins on their way to victory at Cheltenham

His rider said: “I’m delighted to get back on him. Look, Galopin Des Champs is going to be very difficult to beat and Kemboy and Fury Road set a good benchmark, too, but I’m hoping he will be above that benchmark – I’d be hoping we can finish second and you never know.

“It was a great run at Tramore giving all that weight, especially as it was a home game for Minella Indo as he is only five minutes down the road.

“It was a close finish but I don’t think it was a hard race, they only hacked around before sprinting home. He should come forward from that.

“Obviously Stattler stays well, but I don’t think he’s slow. He’s a young horse who is improving and I’m hoping we haven’t seen the best of him yet.”

Ted Walsh’s Grand National stalwart Any Second Now and Peter Fahey’s Grand National aspirant The Bog Dog take on team Mullins, as does Gordon Elliott with Fury Road, a fine third to stablemate Conflated in the Savills Chase last time out.

“He’s in good form. It is a very competitive race and he faces a big step up. He ran well the last day at Leopardstown, so hopefully he runs well again. It is never easy when they come out of novice company,” said Elliott.

1.20: Hopes high for Good Land

 (Photo: PA)
(Photo: PA)

Owner-trainer Barry Connell considers Good Land a worthy favourite for the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors “50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff” Novice Hurdle.

The two-mile-six-furlong contest is the first of eight Grade Ones scheduled to take place across a mouthwatering two days at this year’s Dublin Racing Festival – and while Willie Mullins looks set dominate, it is Connell’s charge who is poised to head the market for the curtain-raiser.

Wexford bumper winner Good Land made it no further than the first flight on his hurdling debut at Fairyhouse, but proved his class with an impressive victory at Leopardstown over the Christmas period.

He steps up in distance and class this weekend, but Connell is confident he will prove hard to beat.

He said: “He’s in good order and worked well during the week. All is good with him. They’re putting plenty of water on the track so the ground should be fine and the step up in trip won’t be an issue.

“He doesn’t have to improve too much. After his performance the last day over the course, he probably deserves to be favourite. I think he’s come on since Christmas and we’re hoping for a big run.”

READ: Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup runner-by-runner guide

Mullins fires a twin assault at a prize he has won seven times in the last 10 years, with stable jockey Paul Townend preferring Tramore winner Quais De Paris to Grangeclare West, who needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at Naas earlier in the month under the trainer’s nephew, Danny.

“Grangeclare West was very impressive when he won and Quais De Paris was probably less impressive, but it’s a tight track in Tramore and I brought him down for the ground,” said Mullins.

“He’s a big horse who will appreciate a longer trip and he’ll improve an awful lot. The bare evidence of that form probably wouldn’t be good enough, but we’ve brought plenty of horses down to Tramore and on to Leopardstown and Cheltenham and it’s worked.”

Sandor Clegane after winning at Punchestown
Sandor Clegane after winning at Punchestown

Paul Nolan claimed this race in 2020 with Latest Exhibition and has high hopes for Sandor Clegane, who was runner-up to Facile Vega in a bumper at this meeting 12 months ago and opened his account over hurdles with a 12-length verdict at Punchestown in November.

Nolan said: “He’s only had two runs over hurdles, he was placed in his first run and then improved a lot from that to win at Punchestown. It is a big step up now again and hopefully he can run with credit. He seems in good form and we hope for the best.

“It’s a big step up in class and it looks a very hot race – all nine have declared and you can make a case for all nine of them in it.

“This fella is still a young horse and he’s a big scopey individual and we hope he can stay in one piece. He is full of potential and we hope he can run with credit on Saturday.”

Deep Cave and Rachael Blackmore in the clear
Deep Cave and Rachael Blackmore in the clear

Deep Cave recorded a narrow win at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival and represents the formidable combination of Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

“I thought he won really nicely at Leopardstown over Christmas. He’s only a young horse, but he’s progressed with every run,” said de Bromhead. "He’s only a five-year-old, but he’s a really nice horse and one we’re looking forward to running.”

British hopes are carried by Weveallbeencaught, who had subsequent Cheltenham winner Rock My Way in behind when scoring at Prestbury Park on New Year’s Day.

The six-year-old is trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and will ridden by his son Sam, who said: “His form has worked out nicely after Saturday, so fingers crossed. It is a lot hotter out there (Ireland), mind. The owners wanted to have a go, so we are heading to Leopardstown.”

Gordon Elliott’s trio of American Mike, Absolute Notions and Cool Survivor complete the field, with the first named horse looking to bounce back from an odds-on defeat in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan in November.

“He wasn’t right the last day – he scoped dirty after the race,” said Elliott. But he is in good form now and we are running him and we’re hoping for a better run the next day.”

1.55: Lossiemouth heads Mullins juvenile team

Lossiemouth is out to maintain her unbeaten record in the Donohue Marquees Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday.

She heads a six-strong Willie Mullins team that also includes interesting French recruit Gust Of Wind, Jourdefete, Tekao, Cinsa and Gala Marceau, with Brendan Duke’s hurdling debutant Darraby and Henry de Bromhead’s Ascending also in the mix.

Vauban won the race 12 months ago and went on to follow up at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle, sporting the same pink and green Rich Ricci silks as Lossiemouth.

Mullins said: “Everyone knows Lossiemouth. She won in Fairyhouse and won at Christmas in Leopardstown.

“People are not so much aware of Gust Of Wind, who won a very good race in Auteuil. We managed to get him and gave him a little break and he’s coming back now. Hopefully he’s up to this standard, I think he is.”

2.30: Mullins Jr is fan of Appreciate It

Patrick Mullins considers Appreciate It as the clear pick of five runners for his father Willie in a fascinating renewal of the Goffs Irish Arkle.

Un De Sceaux (2015), Douvan (2016) and Footpad (2018) all claimed this Grade One prize en route to winning the Arkle at Cheltenham the following month, while last season’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Energumene (2021) also features on the roll of honour for the Mullins team.

The champion trainer appears intent on adding to his tally this weekend, with Appreciate It joined by a quartet of stablemates in Dysart Dynamo, El Fabiolo, Saint Roi and Flame Bearer.

“They’ve all had good wins over fences, so it will be interesting to see them all,” said Mullins senior. “We were hoping to keep them apart, but they have to go for the prize-money. They’re all owned by different people and we’ll be happy if one of them can win.”

Appreciate It, who memorably landed the 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by 24 lengths, has bolted up over fences at Punchestown and Naas and is the choice of stable jockey Paul Townend.

Danny Mullins partners Dysart Dynamo, a 28-length winner over the course and distance on his chasing debut, while Daryl Jacob is aboard 19-length Fairyhouse scorer El Fabiolo for his retaining owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

Dysart Dynamo on his way to winning at Leopardstown last month
Dysart Dynamo on his way to winning at Leopardstown last month

The fact that the Mark Walsh-ridden Saint Roi won a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas and is widely available to back at double-figure odds is clear evidence of the strength in depth Mullins has at his disposal. Flame Bearer, a dual Grade Two-winning hurdler and the mount of Brian Hayes, is an even bigger price.

Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, is fascinated to see how the race plays out, but is very much in the Appreciate It camp at this stage.

He said: “The Irish Arkle is probably the most exciting race of the weekend, and that is saying something. It’s the most competitive novice chase I’ve seen for a long, long time.

“We’ve Appreciate It, Dysart Dynamo, Flame Bearer, El Fabiolo and Saint Roi and they all deserve to be there. It is more than likely going to be very hectic, but I’m a big, big fan of Appreciate It and while there are a lot of very, very good horses in the race, I just think he could be the best of them.

“Willie went to walk the track on Thursday and he was very happy with what he saw. It’ll be very exciting to watch, there’s sure to be lots of pace but I think that will suit Appreciate It all the more.”

The horse bookmakers feel is most likely to upset the Mullins brigade is Joseph O’Brien’s Banbridge, who impressed in winning an Arkle trial at Cheltenham in November before finishing third in the Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.

“It looks an outstanding novice chase – all the principals are there,” said O’Brien. “Banbridge has earned his spot, I think, being a Grade Two winner this year. We’re looking forward to the race and hoping for a good run, too.

“Coming back in trip certainly won’t inconvenience him and I think nicer ground will help as well.”

Peter Fahey’s Visionarian and the Gordon Elliott-trained Fil Dor finished second and third respectively to Saint Roi last month and take him on again.

Fahey said: “He is going to have to improve, but the biggest thing with him – without wanting to put the mockers on him – is his jumping is so quick.

“He seems to be a quick and accurate jumper, which is a definite plus on his side. I think it will be run at a faster pace that it was at Christmas and fingers crossed he runs a big race.”

Fil Dor has won at Leopardstown before
Fil Dor has won at Leopardstown before

Connections of Fil Dor are hoping the application of cheekpieces will help him raise his game.

Joey Logan, racing manager to owners Caldwell Construction Ltd, said: “The trip is possibly a bit sharp for him, but he’s in great form.

“He landed on the fence three out the last day and got a bad cut – it just didn’t work out for him. We’re putting cheekpieces on him to sharpen him up, so we’ll see how we go. It’s a very competitive race and we’ll know where we are afterwards, anyway.”

4.40: Fascile Mode puts credentials on line

Day one of the Dublin Racing Festival concludes with the Shabra Charity Oliver Brady Memorial Future Stars I.N.H. Flat Race, a Grade Two bumper Willie and Patrick Mullins have combined to win each of the past three years with Appreciate It, Kilcruit and Facile Vega respectively.

This time around Mullins junior had the pick of four runners and has sided with Fact To File over Chosen Witness, Special Cadeau and Largy Hill – but he insists it was not a straightforward choice.

He said: “It was very difficult to chose. Chosen Witness probably has the best run, but Fact To File is doing the best work.

“More often than not I’d go with the best run but with bumper horses it can be a bit different, they’ve only had the one run and can improve so I’ve gone for Fact To File. But I’m not certain I’m on the right one.”

While Mullins possesses a strong hand, it is his brother Tom who saddles the likely favourite in Fascile Mode, who impressed over the course and distance last month.

He said: “He has to back up his win but he’s been fine since and working well so we’ll have a go and see what he can do.

“He will be a stayer in the making I would say but I liked his turn of foot off a real good pace and it was a fast time that day. It was impressive and it was his first time out so hopefully he will improve a little again and if he does it might get him there.

“It’s only missing a couple of English horses and I think they are best that Gordon (Elliott) and Willie have at the moment, so if he beats them on Saturday he is probably the best bumper horse in Ireland.”

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