Galopin Des Champs is a red-hot favourite to enhance his Cheltenham Gold Cup claims with victory in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Saturday.
Incredibly the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old was sent off a 100-1 no-hoper at the Dublin Racing Festival two years ago.
Yet since then his only blemish has been in last season’s Turners Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham when he was in the process of handing out a wide-margin beating to Bob Olinger only to slip on landing after the last.
He made amends at Fairyhouse in April and began this campaign with an easy win in the John Durkan at Punchestown.
However, despite having a Grade One win in his hurdling days over three miles, this will be his first time over the trip when tackling fences.
“He handled Leopardstown very well last year, which is why I don’t have much trouble going back there. He is a big horse, but when he handled the track there last year I’m happy to go back,” said Mullins.
“He does things in his races so easy, except for his little blip in Cheltenham last year where he slipped on landing.
“He’s never been over this trip over fences, but he has over hurdles and I was never really worried about his stamina. He always showed a nice turn of foot and we’ll find out, but I think he shouldn’t have any problem with it.”
Paul Townend will do the steering and said in his blog for Ladbrokes: “Galopin Des Champs really impressed me in the John Durkan. I love the way he settles and that will give him a brilliant chance of getting home.
“He is on the road for the Gold Cup so he will have to win this if he wants to be favourite for Cheltenham. We will focus on winning this first before getting ahead of ourselves. I think he will take a lot of beating, though.”
The champion trainer also runs Franco De Port, Leopardstown regular and 2021 winner of the race Kemboy and Stattler, winner of the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham who will be reunited with Patrick Mullins.
He was second to 2021 Gold Cup winner Minella Indo at Tramore on his seasonal return but was conceding 8lb.
His rider said: “I’m delighted to get back on him. Look, Galopin Des Champs is going to be very difficult to beat and Kemboy and Fury Road set a good benchmark, too, but I’m hoping he will be above that benchmark – I’d be hoping we can finish second and you never know.
“It was a great run at Tramore giving all that weight, especially as it was a home game for Minella Indo as he is only five minutes down the road.
“It was a close finish but I don’t think it was a hard race, they only hacked around before sprinting home. He should come forward from that.
“Obviously Stattler stays well, but I don’t think he’s slow. He’s a young horse who is improving and I’m hoping we haven’t seen the best of him yet.”
Ted Walsh’s Grand National stalwart Any Second Now and Peter Fahey’s Grand National aspirant The Bog Dog take on team Mullins, as does Gordon Elliott with Fury Road, a fine third to stablemate Conflated in the Savills Chase last time out.