Galopin Des Champs’ Gold Cup victory proved the jewel in the crown as Willie Mullins and Paul Townend once again secured the top trainer and jockey honours at the Cheltenham Festival.
The duo endured a sticky start to the week when favourite Facile Vega was turned over in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but the winners soon started to flow with El Fabiolo getting the duo off the mark for the week in the Arkle.
Mullins enjoyed a second victory on Tuesday as his son Patrick steered Gaillard Du Mesnil to the National Hunt Chase, while Wednesday’s card produced two further wins for the Mullins-Townend axis as Impaire Et Passe bossed the Ballymore and Energumene was too good in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
The Closutton team drew a rare blank on Thursday, but Lossiemouth had them smiling again after victory in Friday’s Triumph Hurdle, before Galopin Des Champs justified market confidence with a clear-cut Gold Cup verdict.
Townend’s five winners mean he is now the most successful active jockey at the Festival with 28 victories and a third top jockey title, while Mullins is streets ahead of his fellow trainers in having saddled 94 winners overall at the meeting. He has been the fixture’s top trainer on 10 occasions now.
Patrick Mullins, representing his father, said: “To win the Gold Cup and the Champion Chase, they are half of the major races so that was fantastic. Galopin Des Champs winning the Gold Cup though really was the cherry on the top.
“Six winners is probably where we need to be hitting at least. The amount of horses we have and the standard we have, we needed to do everything we did this week.
“Last year was just one of those years after Covid and everything and we were never going to match that total of 10.
“Taking the Gold Cup and Champion Chase while El Fabiolo (Arkle) and Impaire Et Passe (Ballymore) look like they could be anything so we were very pleased to see them win as well. Galopin Des Champs really was the big one and thankfully he delivered.”
JP McManus finished the week as the leading owner, with Impervious and Iroko giving him two victories on the final day, although Sire Du Berlais’ shock 33-1 success in Thursday’s Stayers’ Hurdle was the highlight.
He said: “We finished strong which was great. You never know how you are going to get on as it is very competitive here. You are hoping to get a winner or two and it was nice to get off the board on Wednesday night.
“The Stayers’ Hurdle was a lovely race to win and to finish off with the Martin Pipe was great and we topped it off winning the Mares’ Chase. It has been wonderful. Any time you get a winner, they are really precious and they were all very special in fairness.”
The Prestbury Cup – the annual competition between British and Irish trainers – was sealed on Thursday with victory once again going to the raiding party.
Irish handlers ended the meeting with 18 victories, with the British team landing 10 – equalling the 2022 result.