Galopin Des Champs all but foot-perfect in landing rescheduled John Durkan Chase

Willie Mullins and Paul Townend combine for Punchestown hat-trick

There weren’t many boots on the ground to watch but Galopin Des Champs made a foot-perfect return to action at Punchestown on Monday. Willie Mullins’s rising star tightened his grip at the top of the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting with a comprehensive 13-length defeat of Fakir D’Oudairies in the Grade One John Durkan Chase.

Noted for his freewheeling style as a novice, Galopin Des Champs settled particularly well for jockey Paul Townend as Lifetime Ambition cut out the running. The field for the €80,000 rescheduled feature was still bunched at the third last but the way Galopin Des Champs quickly put the race to bed in the straight was impressive.

Some layers cut his Gold Cup odds to as low as 7-4, while Mullins admitted that as seasonal debuts go this was pretty much ideal.

“I liked the way he settled and jumped, and the way he skipped away from a four-time Grade One winner over that trip. Just to change hands and come away from Fakir D’oudaires by 13 lengths, to me that’s a big result,” he said.


“I was really happy going past the winning post to see a loop in Paul’s reins. That’s a big improvement, and when Paul wanted him to put in a few quick ones in front of fences he did that, when Paul really went for it at the third last he was so slick over that fence. I thought ‘wow’ this horse has grown up so much and learned so much,” Mullins added.

The champion trainer was non-committal on what route Galopin Des Champs will take to Cheltenham but not the ultimate target – “he’s a Gold Cup horse. He’s going for the Gold Cup, that’s it.”

On his last visit to Cheltenham Galopin Des Champs famously dumped Townend at the final fence with the Marsh Chase at his mercy. It was a much happier experience for the champion jockey this time.

“At the start of last year he was rushing and letting fly at his fences, but he did everything professional today. On the first circuit there was a loop in the rein and he was doing everything right and it’s brilliant to see him being so professional now. I wanted a lead today if I could and then I just wanted to keep it simple on him. He gives you some feel and it’s brilliant they got the meeting on,” Townend said.

The downside of rescheduling was that rarely can a Grade One contest have been run in front of so few although any similarly late eve of Christmas date for the Durkan is unlikely again. The race will be run as part of a new schedule at the track in 2023, joining the Morgiana Hurdle as part of a top-flight weekend over November 25th-26th.

The Durkan was the highlight of a lucrative afternoon for the Mullins team who watched Appreciate It get his career over fences off to a winning start. An SP of 1-5 suggested it might have been easier to shake off Top Bandit than it seemed at one point of the Beginners Chase but ultimately Appreciate It won with authority.

“He went out and did his own work in front. He was very idle in front and Jack Kennedy (on runner-up) kept him honest over the last couple. I couldn’t ask for any better. It was only two miles and we’ll see how he comes out of it. We’ll see if there is something between now and the Dublin Racing Festival.

“He’s an Arkle-type and we have other horses to come out over the next few days. I don’t know if they are as good as him, but we’ll give them the opportunity,” Mullins said.

Townend also was on board Saylavee who powered home in the Listed mares novice hurdle to beat Bella Scintilla.

Mullins’s two hopes in the bumper, Captain Cody and Blizzard Of Oz, had to settle for minor placings as Henry de Bromhead’s Slade Steel outpaced the pair in the closing stages.

Robert Tyner’s Sir Bob justified market support in the handicap chase, after which the trainer revealed he has reversed a decision made earlier this year to retire.

“We have about 12 in at the moment, about six for the track and six for point-to-points. We have a few four-year-olds and a few five-year-olds. We’ll keep it at that. I changed my mind about stopping completely. It’s something to get us up in the morning and is a family-run operation.”

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column