Mullins’s Cheltenham Festival crown shows no sign of slipping and a third Gold Cup
success was a fitting way to put the seal on his latest dominant week, writes Paul Martin.
Galopin Des Champs bolted up to secure the master of Closutton’s fifth straight leading trainer title here, an award he has now won ten times in all since 2011.
Mullins is no stranger to dealing with pressure – or indeed applying it.
Whether coping with the expectations of billionaire owners or expectant punters, the 66-year-old takes it all in his stride, just as his latest superstar did in the Festival showpiece.
Paul Townend was under strict instructions to keep Galopin ‘switched off’ in the early stages of the race, knowing full well he would pick up over the trip as contenders came and went.
There were times it looked as if he may have left himself too much to do but, as is so often the case, the Mullins masterplan worked almost to the letter.
Galopin flew up the hill to banish both doubts as to whether he would stay the trip on his first run over this distance and the painful memories from last year, when he fell at the last when holding a comfortable lead in the Turners Novices’ Chase.
This time around he more than justified the short starting price to follow in the footsteps of War of Attrition and Sizing John in landing a Gold Cup for the Irish on St Patrick’s Day.
“We put ourselves under pressure by saying he had enough stamina to win a Gold Cup but I thought he had enough class to win a Gold Cup,” Mullins said.
“When Al Boum Photo won the Gold Cup, there wasn’t a huge amount of expectation behind him but there was a huge weight of expectation behind this guy.
“I didn’t realise how much pressure there would be but at third last, I saw Paul fly through it and come back on the bridle. Then I thought ‘this is going to happen’.
“Through the race you were wondering whether you’re too far back but I’d asked Paul to settle him.
“I said ‘you’ve got the best horse, the fastest horse’. Paul is so good under pressure and I’ve been putting him under fair pressure this week.”
Mullins and Townend have combined for five of the Grade 1 honours on offer this week, with his son Patrick earning his other success on Gaillard du Mesnil in the National Hunt Challenge Cup.
A second straight double figure haul had looked a possibility going into the week given the depth of quality in the battalion which arrived across the Irish Sea and Mullins will not leave entirely content, with highly-fancied Facile Vega and Fact To File
among those to hit the crossbar.
But Friday’s action proved there will be no end to Mullins’ hegemony any time soon, with four-year-old filly Lossiemouth shining in the Triumph Hurdle and Galopin already a Gold Cup winner at the age of seven.
“You’d like to think he would come back next year and be favourite [for the Gold Cup] again,” he said.
“You need a lot of luck, you look at the fallers who were there, you have to escape that debris.
“I’m just delighted he did what he did. It was the ride of the week from Paul, if not the year.”