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Cheltenham Festival: Gold Cup preview - Galopin to gallop into history
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Enda McElhinney
Racing Post
Galopin Des Champs won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2023 and is set to defend his crown on March 15
Galopin Des Champs won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in 2023 and is set to defend his crown on March 15

- This year's Cheltenham Festival takes place from March 12-15
- The feature race on the final day is the Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30pm)
Recommended bets:
- Galopin Des Champs to win
- L'Homme Presse each-way

Champs to be the champ again

It is hard to think now that Willie Mullins had to wait until 2019 to land his first Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Until then, he had just missed out with horses like Florida Pearl and Djakadam, but in 2019 Al Boum Photo took the prize back to Closutton and he earned his place in history by following up 12 months later.

Mullins could become the first trainer to have two multiple winners of the Gold Cup if Galopin Des Champs justifies favouritism this year.

He was so dominant last year that you can well understand why he is even-money to do so and his form in recent starts has taken him back close to the level he showed at Cheltenham last March.

His Gold Cup win was a second at the Cheltenham Festival for Galopin Des Champs. He would have been completing a hat-trick, but for an unfortunate fall when well clear in the 2022 Turners. The course clearly suits, although you might not have known it for the first two thirds of last year's Gold Cup.

Settled in rear early by Paul Townend, Galopin Des Champs occasionally jumped a little stickily, but he was always travelling powerfully and he swept by his rivals on the run to two out.

The last remaining challenger, Bravemansgame, wilted up the hill and Galopin Des Champs came home by an extending seven-length margin.

At that point, you would have taken Galopin Des Champs to win more Gold Cups. Faith was shaken when he lost twice to improver Fastorslow, first in the Punchestown Gold Cup and then in the John Durkan.

Since then, Galopin Des Champs has stamped his authority on the division once more. He won the Savills' Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas by a staggering 24 lengths and then got one over on Fastorslow in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival.

With his form back to where it was last spring, it is hard to see anything beating a peak-form Galopin Des Champs.

It was said when he won last year's Gold Cup that he might be the best since Kauto Star. The comparisons will grow stronger if he can match that great horse's Gold Cup haul.

L'Homme Presse is expected to be a serious contender in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
L'Homme Presse is expected to be a serious contender in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Venetia Williams' star can Presse the favourite

The big name missing from last year's Gold Cup was L'Homme Presse. He had won the season before's Brown Advisory, beating Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor, who had looked among the strongest challengers to Galopin Des Champs in last year's Gold Cup.

L'Homme Presse put up one of the greatest handicap performances of recent times in the Rehearsal Chase on his first chase in open company, then fell when looking second best in the King George and was reported to be injured shortly afterwards.

He spent over a year on the sidelines before his return. He won handily at Lingfield, beating Protektorat, then was found out by a shorter trip and running right-handed at Ascot next time.

That did not necessarily dent his Gold Cup claims and, if Shishkin is on anything other than his best behaviour, L'Homme Presse remains the second most likely winner of the Gold Cup to my eyes.

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