Galopin Des Champs bounced back from his Cheltenham Festival mishap with a dominant display in the BoyleSports Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
Hugely impressive on his first two starts over fences, the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was poised to complete his hat-trick in the Turners Novices’ Chase at Prestbury Park last month.
But after shooting clear of Bob Olinger and jumping the final fence in a commanding lead, there were gasps from the packed grandstands as Galopin Des Champs crumpled on landing and parted company with Paul Townend.
Faced with just three rivals, the French import was the 2-11 favourite for Fairyhouse’s Easter Sunday feature and stamped his class on the two-and-a-half-mile contest in no uncertain terms.
Having jumped and travelled well throughout, Galopin Des Champs powered clear on the run to final obstacle – and this time he made no mistake as he fiddled his way over and galloped away to beat Master McShee by 18 lengths.
Paddy Power make the hugely exciting gelding their 4-1 joint-favourite for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup along with this season’s runaway winner A Plus Tard.
“I had an armchair ride as he lobbed along and jumped for fun,” said Townend.
“He put up a massive performance at Cheltenham before the fall. The important thing was that he learned from it.
“I was so happy with him today. He knew what he was doing and looked a real professional.”
Mullins said: “He had a hard race in Cheltenham – any horse that goes at that pace would have a hard race. All his homework suggested he was fine and Paul was happy with him.
“I was going to wait and go over three miles at Punchestown, but then I thought there’s a Grade One here over two and a half, and we took our chance.
“Paul rode him differently down to the first than he did at Cheltenham and that made a big change. To me it looked an ordinary pace, and it looked like the other two elected to challenge him over the last three fences.
“Once he changed gear between the last two, it was over bar jumping the last. He just seemed to be on a wrong stride and Paul let the horse decide. He put down lovely and got over it.
“He quickened away after the last, and he couldn’t pull him up going around the bend.
“I reckon he’s a Gold Cup horse. I have to discuss that with Greg and Audrey (Turley, owners) yet, but he looks a horse for the Gold Cup.”