Galopin Des Champs holds an edge over his rival Bob Olinger on official ratings ahead of what is shaping as the most eagerly awaited clash of the upcoming Cheltenham festival.
The two most exciting young chasers in Ireland are on course to clash in the Turners Chase on day three of the festival with both camps up for a fight.
“This is what it is about – the best taking on the best,” Bob Olinger’s trainer Henry de Bromhead commented at the weekend. “If they want to have a go at Bob, then fair play to them.”
Willie Mullins also has the option of the longer Brown Advisory Chase the day before for Galopin Des Champs but has indicted his preference for the Turners.
It sets up perfectly with both horses unbeaten in two starts each over fences and both having won at last year’s festival.
Bob Olinger put up one of the performances of the week in 2021 in the Ballymore while Galopin Des Champs emerged on top in the Martin Pipe conditional jockeys event.
He subsequently progressed to Grade One success himself over flights at Punchestown but appears to have been transformed by fences this season.
A spectacular chasing debut at Leopardstown over Christmas was followed by Grade One success at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Bob Olinger failed to convince everyone with his jumping when making his own winning debut over fences in November but was more impressive on his only other start at Punchestown in January.
He skipped a clash with Galopin Des Champs at the Dublin Racing Festival but the pair remains on track for a potentially defining head-to-head in a fortnight.
Stuck together as best-priced 5-4 joint favourites, official ratings suggest Galopin Des Champs has accomplished more so far.
A 164 rating is 4lbs more than Bob Olinger, theoretically at least giving him a lead of about four lengths.
Ireland’s senior handicapper has stressed he can only calculate on what he has seen to date, although like many others he is eagerly anticipating the big head-to-head.
"I think it's going to be a fascinating race. It could well come down to jumping. The last might be crucial. You'd be hoping to get to that stage anyway. Sometimes these races don't turn out like we were hoping they were going to be. But it's the race I'd look forward to the most," Sandy Shaw said on Tuesday.
“He [Bob Olinger] doesn’t blow you away like Galopin Des Champ does. That’s the only difference between them. I haven’t been blown away by him yet.
“If you remember at Punchestown, turning in he seemed to be struggling to peg back Capadanno for a few strides. But as soon as he straightened up he seemed to change gear, whereas Galopin Des Champs has had them killed off before the turn in. They’ve different ways.
“I would never say I was right about Galopin Des Champs. That’s just what I think so far. If it turned out the other way around it wouldn’t shock me either,” Shaw added.
He also suspects the two-and-a-half mile trip will prove ideal for both horses, who are already first and second favourites in betting for the 2023 Gold Cup.
“I think the trip will suit both. I understand Willie’s thoughts. He probably will get three miles. But the way he races at the moment, two and a half is probably best. And Bob Olinger from last year, the hurdle race, that’s in or around his trip as well,” Shaw commented.
It was the British handicapper who was in action on Tuesday, releasing weights for the nine handicaps at the festival.
It left punters poring over discrepancies between ratings on Irish-trained horses and initial bookmaker reaction was to cut the Mullins-trained Gaelic Warrior to favouritism for the Boodles Hurdle.
The Rich Ricci-owned horse failed to win in three starts in France and has been allocated a Cheltenham mark of 129.
His stable companion State Man was also cut in betting for the Coral Cup and the County Hurdle after getting a rating of 141.