Galopin Des Champs shines again as Willie Mullins lands Grade 1 hat-trick

Chacun Pour Soi and Sir Gerhard victorious on a favourites Sunday at Leopardstown

Galopin Des Champs shone again at Leopardstown. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Willie Mullins struck for a short-priced Grade 1 hat-trick at Leopardstown on Sunday and underlined his grip on the Dublin Racing Festival, in front of a crowd of 11,962.

Victory for the trio of Galopin Des Champs, Chacun Pour Soi and Sir Gerhard added to the champion trainer’s top-flight hat-trick on Saturday and saw him scoop seven of the 15 races up for grabs overall at the weekend, which attracted an overall attendance of 24,929.

He has now scooped 29 of the 75 races run over the five years of the €2.1 million showpiece fixture, a phenomenal strike-rate that all but assures him of being champion trainer in Ireland for a 14th year in a row.

Even that strike-rate paled in comparison to his jockey Paul Townend who won on five of his 10 weekend rides, all in Grade 1’s.

READ MORE

On a weekend that saw the return of big crowds to Leopardstown the Mullins bandwagon threatened disaster at one point for bookmakers.

The Mullins trio, combined with the other odds-on hot-pot, Honeysuckle, brought up any number of short-priced accumulator bets on a programme that saw the first six favourites come out on top.

The layers got some relief in the final two contests by the 20-1 Call me Lyreen and Lily Du Berlais’ 40-1 shock in the bumper but the newly invigorated betting ring was still left battered.

If tears from bookies will always be dismissed as being of the crocodile variety they do face having to contend again with some of Mullins’s best at Cheltenham in five weeks time.

Galopin Des Champs accomplished the not insignificant feat of embellishing his already sky-high reputation with victory in the Ladbrokes Novice Chase.

The 4-9 winner was almost foolishly brave at some of his fences but ran out a nine length winner from Master McShee without Townend having to get serious.

Whether he lines up in the Brown Advisory at Cheltenham, or sets up a mouth-watering clash with Bob Olinger in the Turners, he is assured of being one of the headline acts in the Cotswolds.

“I wasn’t as happy with his jumping as I was at Christmas but Paul said it was a Grade 1 pace today,” Mullins said.

“My heart was in my mouth jumping those fences down the back whereas at Christmas I was waiting for another fence to come up because he was really pinging fences. Paul didn’t want to let him do that today. He tried to teach him something,” he added.

Chacun Pour Soi bounced back to form at Leopardstown. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

If Chacun Pour Soi’s two cross-channel races to date have ended in anti-climax then his love of Leopardstown was confirmed by a hat-trick in the Dublin Chase.

According to the layers, his stable companion Energumene has usurped Chacun Pour Soi at the top of Mullins’s pecking order to secure an elusive first Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The man himself though isn’t so sure.

Asked to compare the pair, he replied: “I would have put this fella in a different league all the time but that’s before his two disappointing runs and obviously he’s getting older.

“I think he’s a star but he hasn’t shown himself to be at his best in England. I think he has that day to come yet but maybe he’s gone too old for that.

“I thought I had him ready the last couple of times and he disappointed so this week I decided I was going to get him here at 95 per cent and I think he’s better like that.”

Sir Gerhard lived up to expectations with the outcome of the Tattersalls Novice Hurdle, proving six lengths too good for Tree Stripe Life.

He was far from perfect at a couple of jumps in the first half of the race but improved in the second part and ultimately won with authority.

Asked about a Cheltenham target, Mullins said: “I think he could go either way. I’d have no trouble going to the Supreme with him or to the Ballymore. We’ll see what is in either race and then make our minds up.”

Those pressing Mullins for definite Cheltenham plans for most of his horses are involved in a futile exercise.

But Leopardstown’s weekend action again looks to have provided an ideal stepping stone to the festival that matters most.

The bookmakers will recall too how 10 Cheltenham winners emerged from last year’s DRF action.

Gordon Elliott once again was left in Mullins’s wake but emerged with three winners over the weekend.

The 7-4 favourite Party Central justified favouritism in the opener while Davy Russell also got Call Me Lyreen home in the Liffey Handicap Hurdle.

The brothers Stuart and Ben Crawford combined to spring a shock when Lily Du Berlais emerged on top in a blanket finish to the bumper.

Ben Crawford subsequently got a four day ban for his use of the whip. Derek O’Connor and Lisa O’Neill on the second and third, Battling Bessie and Liberty Dance, got three and two days respectively for their use of the whip.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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