He may be the warm-order favourite for next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup but there are still plenty of questions which Galopin Des Champs must answer.
Willie Mullins’ charge showed maturity with a professional display to come home alone in the John Durkan on his seasonal debut but the next test comes in today’s Grade One Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup (3.05) at Leopardstown.
While the seven-year-old did prevail over three miles in a Grade One during his hurdling days, this is his first time at that trip over the larger obstacles and an impressive performance is needed to justify the hype.
Paul Townend’s mount trades at prohibitive odds in the €250,000 showpiece and this should be a formality barring a mishap with only stablemate Stattler likely to give him any real resistance in this audition. Galopin Des Champs can hand Mullins a 12th Irish Gold Cup success and the 16-time Irish champion trainer looks likely to dominate day one of the Dublin Racing Festival with a monopoly of the Grade One entries.
The Goffs Irish Arkle Novice Chase (2.30) is a corker with Mullins housing five of the eight runners as many of his best up-and-coming chasers face off in a fascinating renewal.
Appreciate It has done nothing wrong in his two chase starts and is a worthy favourite but skimpy odds are not advised in a contest of this quality with stablemates Dysart Dynamo, El Fabiolo, Flame Bearer and Saint Roi throwing down the gauntlet.
The latter landed a Grade One at the Foxrock track over course and distance on his last start and that paints a fair picture of the quality on show here, although the most likely one to lower Appreciate It’s colours may reside outside of Closutton.
The drying ground will be perfect for Banbridge after struggling with the demands of a dour Drinmore at Fairyhouse and Joseph O’Brien’s seven-year-old looks primed to strike.
JJ Slevin’s mount, winner of the Martin Pipe Hurdle last March, was brilliant in a Cheltenham Grade Two prior to his last run and he should put his best foot forward with his fluent jumping, as well as decent odds, making him the value selection.
Fil Dor shouldn’t be disregarded at a lofty price either. Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old may have dirtied his bib when a bad mistake put paid to his effort behind Saint Roi but he is capable of much better than that.
Stable companion American Mike is another to contemplate in the Grade One Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle (1.20) having looked to have the world at his feet when the Champion Bumper runner-up scored on his hurdling debut.
Davy Russell’s mount was not himself in a Grade Three at Navan on his last start so there are doubts about whether he can get back to his best. There are much fewer concerns about the market leaders, though.
The Barry Connell-trained Good Land was a ready maiden hurdle winner here over Christmas but he looks vulnerable at short odds while there is also a sense of the unknown about the Mullins-trained Quais De Paris.
A good winner on his Irish debut at Tramore last month, this will take a huge step up from Townend’s choice and Paul Nolan, winner of this in 2020 with Latest Exhibition, may land the spoils with taking Punchestown winner Sandor Clegane.
DAY ONE PICKS
1.20: Sandor Clegane
3.05: Galopin Des Champs
3.40: Freedom To Dream (e/w)
4.10: A Wave Of The Sea
4.40: Fascile Mode