Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup Day

March 14, 2024

Galopin Des Champs after his 2023 Gold Cup victory. (Breandán Ó hUallacháin photo)

Cheltenham Day 4: 
• Willie Mullins holds a strong hand in the Triumph Hurdle
• Improving Readin Tommy Wrong favourite for Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

By Breandán Ó hUallacháin

Friday is the fourth and final day of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival, with the day’s and the festival’s highlight, the Boodles Cheltenham Cup Chase as the fourth race on another seven-race programme. 

Galopin Des Champs bids for back-to-back Gold Cup successes

The 2023 Cheltenham Gold winner, Galopin Des Champs, began this season with a very underwhelming performance in the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase at Punchestown in November. Some were beginning to write the Willie Mullins-trained gelding off, believing his success at Cheltenham had left a mark on him. This opinion quickly altered when the French-bred produced a devastating performance at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival, defeating the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Chase winner Gerri Colombe by 23 lengths in the Grade 1 Savills Chase. 

The Audrey Turley-owned son of Manon Des Champs followed up with another sparkling performance in the Grade 1 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown during last month’s Dublin Racing Festival, this time beating the 2023 Punchestown Gold Cup victor, Fastorslow, by four and a half lengths. 

The aforementioned Fastorslow re-opposes on Friday and is currently second favourite in the betting market behind last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner. Interestingly, the Martin Brassil-handled Fastorslow has beaten Galopin Des Champs – who bids on Friday to become the ninth dual winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup – on two of the last three occasions they have clashed on a racecourse, in last year’s Gold Cup at Punchestown and in the John Durkan Chase at the same track. 

Gerri Colombe, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Jack Kennedy, has 23 lengths to reverse with Galopin Des Champs from their meeting at Leopardstown last December. The dual Grade 1-winning novice chaser of last season, along with last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Bravemansgame from the Paul Nicholls yard look to be the other challengers who pose the greatest threat to Galopin Des Champs. However, with three of the last four favourites winning the race, eight-year-olds having won the race 25 times, and Paul Townend’s mount back in form, it may be difficult to wrestle the Cheltenham Gold Cup away from Galopin Des Champs.

The two other Grade 1 races on the final day’s programme, the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle and the three mile Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, will give trainers a final opportunity to claim a success at the highest level at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

Willie Mullins holds a strong hand in the Triumph Hurdle

With the Nicky Henderson-trained favourite Sir Gino, an impressive winner at Cheltenham on his most recent run, now confirmed as a non-runner due to the poor form of horses at Henderson’s Seven Barrows stables, Irish-trained juveniles now dominate the betting for the first Grade 1 race of Gold Cup Day, the JCB Triumph Hurdle, a race for four-year-olds over two miles and one furlongs, with eight flights of hurdles to negotiate.

Trainer Willie Mullins, who dominated days one and two of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, provides the two leading chances in the betting market. The Festival’s most successful handler joins with the meeting’s most successful owner ever, J.P. McManus, with the French-bred Majbourg. He will be ridden by McManus’ retained jockey, Mark Walsh, and not by Mullins’ number one rider, Paul Townend. 

County Cork-born Townend will instead take the mount on the second favourite, Storm Heart, who will represent Gigginstown House Stud, which is owned by Ryanir CEO, Michael O’Leary. With Mullins, who won three of the last four running of this contest, responsible for seven of the 14 runners, the Closutton-based trainer will hope one of his strong contingent will follow in the hoofprints of Tuesday’s impressive Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle winner, Lossiemouth, who claimed this Grade 1 prize last season under jockey Paul Townend.

Improving Readin Tommy Wrong favourite for Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

Readin Tommy Wrong has been somewhat of a surprise package this season. He was a Grade 1 winner recently when taking the Lawlor’s Of Naas Hurdle in Ireland over two miles and four furlongs, ahead of his well-touted stablemate Ile Atlantique, who finished third to Ballyburn in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham on Wednesday. A son of Authorized, Readin Tommy Wrong will have the assistance of leading rider Paul Townend from the saddle and the extra four furlongs may be to the gelding’s benefit. 

Many contenders hold a good chance in this race. Captain Teague, already a Group 1 victor, was third in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in 2023; Dancing City was successful over two miles and six furlongs at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown last month; The Jukebox Man was placed in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, while both Gidley Park and High Class Hero are unbeaten in their respective four and five race careers’ to date.

When the final day of Cheltenham 2024 draws to a close on Friday evening, the focus of jumps trainers in Ireland and Britain will then turn to Fairyhouse, Aintree and Punchestown respectively. 

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