Which Race will Galopin Des Champs Run In At The Cheltenham Festival?
The 2023 Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup revolves around one horse and that horse is Galopin Des Champs.
Galopin Des Champs is a top price 13/8 in the Cheltenham odds for the Festival’s blue-riband event but as short as 6/4 in places and looks set to go off the shortest-priced Gold Cup favourite since Bobs Worth (SP 6/4) let favourite backers down in 2014.
So, is the Willie Mullins-trained star a good thing to provide his trainer with a third Gold Cup and cement the seven-year-old’s status as the best staying chaser in training? Let’s take a closer look at his prospects.
No Looking Back Since Turners Defeat
One of the abiding memories of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival was the sight of Galopin Des Champs crumpling on landing after the final fence of the Turners Novices’ Chase with the race completely at his mercy.
Up until that point, Galopin Des Champs had given Bob Olinger a complete mauling, one that he has never truly recovered from even though he went on to win the Grade 1 contest.
Like all the best fighters, Galopin Des Champs picked himself up off the canvas by winning the Boylesports Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse the following month by a whopping 18 lengths.
With his Grade 1 chase now the bag, Willie Mullins could now look forward to unleashing his emerging star against the big boys in 2023.
Undefeated In Open Company
The tale of tape for Galopin Des Champs in the 2022-23 National Hunt season reads two wins from two starts, both in Grade 1 company, with several punters flocking to use their Cheltenham offers on him for Friday's showpiece.
The way he powered clear of stablemate Stattler after the last in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown strongly suggests that this horse has the requisite stamina to cope with the stiffer test that awaits at Prestbury Park in March.
Some were (surprisingly) unimpressed by the manner of Galopin’s victory at the Dublin Racing Festival, perhaps on the grounds that 158-rated Fury Road was still bang in contention coming to the last.
Paul Townend knew he had that rivals measure a long way and would have surely put the race to bed sooner had that race been the be all and end all for Galopin Des Champs.
Importantly, Galopin Des Champs looks to be maturing. He doesn’t over race any more and his jumping is much more measured and assured.
Ultimately, he’s becoming the complete staying chaser and that could spell trouble for his rivals on March 17.
Gold Cup Rivals
Stattler couldn’t hold a candle to Galopin Des Champs’ finishing kick at Leopardstown so the only scenario that could see him getting even close to turning that form around is if they go a strong gallop at Cheltenham and his stamina comes to the fore late on.
However, with so few likely front-runners in the Gold Cup, that looks unlikely and although Stattler will be staying on up the hill, he’ll be too far behind Galopin Des Champs who just has more gears to be able to lay up wherever Paul Townend wants.
Similar comments apply to Noble Yeats, a general 8/1 shot with horse racing betting sites in ante-post Gold Cup lists.
Last year’s Grand National winner is a thorough stayer and his prospects largely rest on whether he is within striking distance off the home turn.
If conditions are testing on the day, and the gallop is strong, Noble Yeats has to rate a big player but quicker conditions and a steadier gallop will see him struggle.
He just doesn’t have the tactical speed of a horse like Galopin Des Champs, who would win a Ryanair if connections chose to go down that road.
Bravemansgame (6/1) looks a more likely type to serve it up to the market leader. A strong traveller who jumps as well as any staying chaser in training, the King George winner can’t be underestimated for all that there remain some slight stamina doubts.
His ability to settle and travel economically which will give him every chance of getting home, especially on decent ground, so it might just boil down to whether he has the class to beat Galopin Des Champs. Official ratings have them separated by just 3lb so we are talking fine margins.
And then there is last year’s Gold Cup hero A Plus Tard, who hasn’t been seen since bombing out completely in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.
Not ideal preparation, then, for a Gold Cup but no one will ever forget the way he scorched to a stunning 15-length victory in 2022 and if Henry De Bromhead can produce him in that sort of form again, then Galopin Des Champs has an almighty race on his hooves.
It’s impossible to know what to expect from A Plus Tard given we’ve barely seen him this season but he would certainly not be a surprise winner.
The supporting cast is deep, too. The likes of Ahoy Senor, Conflated, Hewick and particularly Protektorat all have a big run in them.
Protektorat especially so, because he posted one of the performances of the season in the aforementioned Betfair Chase, indeed his Racing Post Rating of 176 is better than anything Galopin Des Champs has achieved this campaign.
Protektorat was having just his second start over three miles plus when third in last season’s Gold Cup and, with excuses for his prep-race defeat in the Cotswold Chase, he makes a good bit of each-way appeal at 14/1 with betting apps.
Gold Cup Verdict
There is no doubt that Galopin Des Champs brings some stardust to the staying chase division and the top-class seven-year-old is by some distance the most likely winner of the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
However, betting sites know that, too. He’ll understandably be regarded as a banker by many and the cornerstone of millions of multiples across the week, but from a price perspective, he looks tight enough now because this is by no means a one-horse race.
Protektorat and Bravemansgame actually bring better-quality individual performances to the table courtesy of their Betfair Chase and King George wins, both of which yielded higher Racing Post Ratings than either of Galopin Des Champs’ victories this term.
Of course, Galopin Des Champs is the one horse that promises an even bigger run at Cheltenham, but that is factored into his price.
This will be, by some distance the deepest race Galopin Des Champs has ever run in and while he could very easily win, and win well, from a value perspective the call has to be to play something each-way against him.
Protektorat is tempting, but Bravemansgame has the tools to throw a real spanner in the works and that's why the Paul Nicholls candidate gets the vote.
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