Galopin Des Champs can put seal on transformative campaign and pull off Gold Cup hat-trick at Punchestown

Cheltenham bumper hero Jasmin De Vaux bids to join elite company by doubling up at Punchestown Festival

Galopin Des Champs: will renew competition with Fastorslow at Punchestown. Photograph: Adam Davy/PA Wire

Galopin Des Champs returns to Punchestown on Wednesday after a transformative campaign that has left the sport’s best steeplechaser on the brink of a superb Gold Cup ‘Triple Crown’.

With a second Cheltenham Gold Cup under his belt in March, and prior to that victory in the Dublin Racing Festival’s version, Willie Mullins’s star is odds-on to also land the €300,000 Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup.

It’s a stunning hat-trick only previously accomplished by Sizing John in 2017 and one that seemed unlikely five months ago after Galopin Des Champs’ last visit to Punchestown.

Starting a 1-2 favourite, he finished a leaden-looking third behind his old rival Fastorslow in a John Durkan Chase he’d won in style a year previously.


Coming on the back of having given best to Fastorslow in the 2023 Punchestown Gold Cup, it smacked of a horse that might struggle to again reach the ‘Blue Riband’ standards he reached at Cheltenham last year.

However, a return to forceful tactics resulted in a spectacular performance at Leopardstown over Christmas that rejuvenated Galopin Des Champs’ credentials as perhaps the best staying chaser since Kauto Star.

Not only were there 23 lengths back to Gerri Colombe on that occasion but the style in which he went by the post had observers struggling for any kind of comparison.

Fastorslow was subsequently beaten back at Leoaprdstown in February and while Gerri Colombe got closer at Cheltenham there was an authority to Galopin Des Champs that left little room for argument.

It was a commanding display reinforced by how after a gruelling stamina test in very soft ground he galloped out after the line to the end of the pull up area. In comparison, both Gerri Colombe and the third Corach Rambler came to a half in a matter of strides after the post.

It underlined his status as a remarkable galloper and now he’s back for a race which a year ago looked a bridge too far as he finished in the middle of a memorable three-way battle with Fastorslow and Bravemansgame.

Fastorslow will defend the race title and look for consolation after anticlimactically unseating JJ Slevin at Cheltenham. Horses-for-courses fans will also take in how Galopin Des Champs looked a tired version of himself in this race a year ago and make Fastorslow a horse to reckon with.

With the King George hero Hewick lining up, and the 2023 Grand National hero Corach Rambler making the trip from Scotland after his first-fence Aintree exit this time, it’s a race with plenty of star quality.

The 2023 Grand National hero Corach Rambler is making the trip from Scotland to Punchestown after his first-fence Aintree exit this time. Photograph: Tom Maher/Inpho

It’s at the end of a long campaign, and on ground quicker than ideal. But at eight-years-old, and with a superb campaign already banked, Galopin Des Champs looks an exceptional talent at the peak of his powers and one for the Punchestown masses to relish.

The first of Wednesday’s three Grade One prizes sees the best of Ireland’s staying novices line up in the Channor Champion Hurdle as well as a real unknown quantity in Backmersackme.

Ordinarily, a horse with a couple of point to point starts and a single successful bumper appearance wouldn’t be next or near such a contest.

No one will dismiss him lightly though as Backmersackme is from Emmet Mullins’s yard and carrying Paul Byrne’s colours. Donagh Meyler guided their Feronily to Grade One glory here a year ago on just his second start over fences, leading the jockey to proclaim: “You’d be a foolish man to second guess Emmet Mullins!”

Dancing City had Stellar Story in his wake at the DRF but the latter emerged a 33-1 winner in Cheltenham’s Albert Bartlett. Dancing City has since impressed at Aintree and if bouncing out of that could be the solution.

The unbeaten Jasmin De Vaux will try to join some elite company by adding Punchestown’s Champion Bumper to the Cheltenham title he won in March, a victory that saw Willie Mullins reach 100 festival winners.

A Dream To Share and Facile Vega managed the double in the last two years while Fayonagh (2017), Champagne Fever (2012) and Cousin Vinny in 2008 also managed the feat.

A lot didn’t go Jasmin De Vaux’s way at Cheltenham and yet he vindicated Patrick Mullins’s faith in him. With a good break since then, he can get the better of William Munny who comes here carrying a big home reputation.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column