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Galopin Des Champs to win the Gold Cup for a second time

Galopin Des Champs and Paul Townend entering the winners' enclosure at Cheltenham 2023Galopin Des Champs and Paul Townend entering the winners' enclosure at Cheltenham 2023
© Photo Healy Racing

Galopin Des Champs was sent off the 7/5 favourite for last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup when he was still unproven over the race distance of three miles, two furlongs and 70 yards, but there were few worries in the latter stages for his supporters as he bounded up the Cheltenham hill to record an impressive seven lengths victory.

This time around the reigning Champion is odds-on favourite to repeat the dose at current odds of 4/5 (non-runner no bet) with leading online bookmaker bet365. The question is whether or not this price represents value or would it be better to look elsewhere for another horse to dethrone the Champion on Friday 15th March.

Galopin Des Champs suffered two defeats after last season's scintillating performance at Cheltenham. He was most likely still feeling the effects of his Gold Cup exploits when beaten in the Punchestown equivalent the following month by Fastorslow. It is also relatively easy to excuse his seasonal reappearance defeat in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in November which was run over an inadequate distance of two and a half miles.

Galopin Des Champs certainly looked as good as ever when back up to three miles for the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas where he demolished the opposition, putting 23 lengths between himself and his nearest pursuer Gerri Colombe.

Leopardstown was again the venue for Galopin Des Champs’ final race before his Cheltenham Gold Cup defence, where he contested the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival, and again he produced another top drawer display to exact revenge on his Punchestown conqueror Fastorslow.

In their three recent encounters it can certainly be argued that there is not a huge amount between Galopin Des Champs and Fastorslow and the latter looks a reasonable each-way alternative to the favourite, but his odds of 9/2 with bet365 (NRNB) look a shade low considering he has yet to prove his suitability to the Gold Cup distance.

The talented, but quirky, Shishkin certainly cannot be ruled out in a fascinating renewal. Only two years ago he was sent off at odds-on to beat Energumine in the Champion Chase, but ran no race and was pulled up. The following season Nicky Henderson stepped him up in distance and he has continued to perform to a very high level over extended trips.

He would have almost certainly won the King George VI Chase at Kempton over Christmas only for unseating his rider at the penultimate fence and made no mistake at Newcastle last time in the Denman Chase at Newcastle when easily beating Hitman and Protektorat.

Galopin Des Champs winning at Leopardstown on 3 Feb 2024Galopin Des Champs winning at Leopardstown on 3 Feb 2024
© Photo Healy Racing

Shishkin is an appealing each-way bet at 7/1 with bet365, non-runner no-bet, on overall ability, but his refusal to race at Ascot in November is hard to completely forgive or forget.

Bargin-basement purchase Hewick won the aforementioned King George VI Chase and would bring the house down if he managed to add a Gold Cup to his already impressive CV. He certainly has the form to contend and was running a big race here last year before falling at the second last fence.

The chief issue regarding the chances of Hewick at this stage is his distinct preference for decent ground. Cheltenham Racecourse are predicting Soft going for the opening day of the Festival and if the ground was to be any worse come Gold Cup day he is unlikely to run, nevermind contend.

Gordon Elliott’s Gerri Colombe had barely put a foot wrong in his rise through the chasing ranks until he was brushed aside by Galopin Des Champs last month. His overall profile suggests that the 23 lengths defeat is not a true reflection of his ability, but at the same time it would require a leap of faith to envisage him reversing the form on his very next start. Bet365 are enhancing Gerri Colombe’s odds from 10/1 to 11/1.

Bravemansgame finished second to Galopin Des Champs in last year’s Gold Cup and also ran a fine race when a close third to Fastorslow in the Punchestown Gold Cup the following month, but has failed to reproduce that level of form in three races this season. His runner-up finish in the King George VI Chase at Kempton puts him again in the mix for the places, but he has looked a weak finisher on his three previous runs at Cheltenham. His 16/1 quote with bet365 is probably about right.

L’Homme Presse looked an exciting novice when landing the 2022 Brown Advisory Novices Chase at the Festival and reaffirmed that impression when running very well in that year’s King George VI Chase at Kempton where he would have finished second to Bravemansgame, but for unseating rider at the last fence.

L’Homme Presse missed all of 2023, but returned to the track with a victory at Lingfield in January. His subsequent defeat at the hands of Pic D’orhy at Ascot last month was somewhat underwhelming and it would require significant improvement to see him contend in the Gold Cup.

Overall, cases can be made for several horses having decent each-way chances in next week’s Gold Cup, but Galopin Des Champs is the most likely winner once again.

Galopin Des Champs is undoubtedly the worthy favourite and a reproduction of his performance in this race last year, or a similar effort to either of his two most recent victories, will see him crowned the champion for a second time. His odds of 4/5 with bet365 reflect the fact that he is far more likely to win than lose at Cheltenham on Friday 15 March.

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