The star of the Easter show at Fairyhouse was undoubtedly the Willie Mullins trained Galopin Des Champs, who absolutely hacked up in the Grade 1 Fairyhouse Gold Cup. In truth, it was just a Grade 1 in name, as his starting price of 2/11f would demonstrate the lack of strength and depth and just three rivals to fend off.
Nonetheless he got back on the right track after his Cheltenham Festival mishap, coming home in splendid isolation by 18 lengths from old foe Master McShee, beating that rival by 9 lengths further than when they met at the Dublin Racing Festival. He jumped and travelled with all the zest you would like to see, and apart from a tiny mistake at the last it was a foot perfect round of jumping from the six-year-old who has now been trimmed into a best-priced 4/1 shot to win the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The horse, as exciting as he is, has already polarised opinion on many fronts. Firstly, does he deserve to be Gold Cup favourite purely on what he has achieved in the form book? You could argue he has beaten the aforementioned Master McShee twice, and essentially (apart from the ‘mishap’) would have won a match race against Bob Olinger at the Cheltenham Festival, who was found to be lame in the aftermath.
His starting SP’s in his 4 chase starts have been 4/7f, 4/9f, 5/6f, 2/11f…so does that underline his superiority, or lack of any quality amongst his opposition? It probably highlights both, but the manner in which he has been going about his business has oozed both class and charisma and that is what makes his potential in open company so exciting. Secondly, the trip. He can race with plenty of enthusiasm, and he has looked very happy over the intermediate trip over fences.
After the Cheltenham Festival, Willie Mullins seemed a bit perplexed by what his optimum trip would be moving forwards, and even flirted with the idea of bringing Galopin Des Champs back to 2m. Anyhow, in the aftermath of this weekend’s performance, next season’s Gold Cup looks to be where they are aiming, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on having had his stamina tested over staying trips.
He has raced once over three miles (over hurdles) – and bolted up (as a five-year-old) so there is every indication that he has the eclectic mix of speed, class and stamina to the horse they have to beat at Prestbury Park in 11 months time. However, lots of water, and bridges and all those sayings apply. Who is the better 4/1 shot – Galopin Des Champs or A Plus Tard?
On Monday, Dermot McLoughlin pulled another rabbit out of the hat as he trained the Irish Grand National winner for the second successive year.12 months ago, it was with 150/1 poke Freewheelin Dylan and this time around it was with 40/1 surprise Lord Lariat – who produced a thorough staying performance to fend off 26 rivals. Gaillard Du Mesnil was sent off the 11/2f, but possibly didn’t stay the trip; three fences from home he was tanking, but perhaps didn’t produce as much in the hard yards as he promised.
Earlier that day, Brandy Love thumped her rivals to land the Grade 1 Mares’ Novice Hurdle, and is an 8/1 poke for next year’s Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival where she would look a key player given the manner in which she swatted aside Love Envoi. Ryanair Chase runner-up Janidil fell at the 7th fence when leading in the Grade 2 Devenish Chase which was eventually won by Easy Game.
Switching codes, and Perfect Power enjoyed the step up to 7f to land the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Saturday, and could easily have booked his slot for the 2,000 Guineas on April 30. Last season’s Middle Park winner was keen going to post, but settled well once racing and saw out the trip well. The option of France is there, but he looks as though the step up to 1m should be within grasp, and he wouldn’t be out of place in the first British Classic of the season. He has become a win machine for the Richard Fahey team.
Finally, it was confirmed by connections that Constitution Hill has finished for the season, so we won’t get to see the mega clash against Honeysuckle at Punchestown. Next season it is then!