On Friday at Cheltenham, Galopin Des Champs will bid to defend his title in the Gold Cup, the blue riband of the meeting.

There were legitimate fears that the Willie Mullins-trained chaser was on the wain after a disappointing seasonal debut effort at Punchestown but he bounced back to his best emphatically in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. He backed that performance up, albeit in a more professional fashion, at the Dublin Racing Festival last month.


He is now favourite to become only the fourth dual Gold Cup winner since 1971, and only the third to defend their title - Kauto Star admirably regained his title in 2009. While everything looks in place for him to do so, it will have to be another superb performance from him. Those records speak for themselves, to win two Gold Cups you need sustainable quality and endurance.

It’s three miles and two furlongs and no less than 22 fences around the hills of Prestbury Park, National Hunt racing’s Epsom Derby - the ultimate test. His trainer Willie Mullins knows all about it. Having waited over two decades for a Gold Cup, Al Boum Photo came back and defended his title in 2020 but that horse is an interesting case study, in that he had the most unconventional preparation, running just once before Cheltenham for both of those wins, around the unique track that is Tramore.

Freshness was key to him and speaks of a recent trend of trainers willing to forgo big races during the season in order to prioritise Cheltenham. But you can’t say this about Galopin Des Champs who has raced three times already this term and produced a sublime performance along the way.

For that reason, he would be a most compelling winner of a modern day Gold Cup, which is all set up to be a quality renewal with old foes Fastorslow, Gerri Colombe and Bravemansgame all locking horns again alongside the mercurial Shishkin, the up-and-coming Gentlemansgame, the revitalised L’Homme Presse, King George winner Hewick and the Grand National hero Corach Rambler.

On a week where the marquee events have delivered somewhat disappointing fields, this is far and away the best race of the week.