It’s one of the curious things about horse racing that you can look back on Cheltenham 2022 and make a fair argument that the best performance of the Festival was in defeat. Sure, there were big winners and big performances aplenty, but it’s difficult not to be impressed with how Galopin Des Champs made a mockery of Bob Olinger in the Turners’ Novices Chase – well, at least right up until the final fence when he and Paul Townend somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
But as we know, such was the speed and stamina shown by Willie Mullins’ charge that bookies almost unanimously made Galopin Des Champs favourite for the 2023 Gold Cup. A little bit reactionary, some might say, but it was the kind of move reserved for only the most special of horses; and in Galopin Des Champs, we all have seen something special.
Galopin’s odds trimmed over Christmas
Those ante-post horse racing odds have moved since that time, trending down from 6/1 to 5/1 over the summer, and then 2/1 after Galopin’s seasonal reappearance – a formidable run in the John Durkan at Punchestown in December. At the time of writing, those odds are now somewhere around 6/4. Those are short odds, certainly when there is three months to go until Gold Cup Day.
It’s been many years since we have seen a horse come into New Year with an ante post price as low as 6/4, but there are reasons for it. It’s not just that Galopinwas so formidable in the John Durkan Memorial – there are also question marks over the rest of the field. Galopin’s odds came down over the Christmas period without him running.
Of course, there can be arguments made for other runners. Bravemansgame put in a good performance in winning the King George, and he looked to have the beating of L’Homme Presse even if it became a moot point with the latter unseating Charlie Deutsch with a few fences to jump. Bravemansgame and L’Homme Presse were a cut above the rest of the field in that race, and they join A Plus Tard at around the 7/1 mark for the Gold Cup. In short, there’s a lot of daylight between the joint second-favourites and the favourite, Galopin Des Champs.
Mullins claims Galopin has the goods to deliver
While it’s hard not to be impressed with Willie Mullins’ 7yo, there are those that have been questioning his stamina. Or, more aptly, questioning why we haven’t seen any evidence of it. He has run 3m once so far in his career – in the Irish Mirror Novices’ Hurdle at Punchestown in April 2021. All of his starts last season were run over less than 2m5½f, and his sole run to date this season – the John Durkan – was 2m4f. Mullins assures us that he can handle the extra mile or so in the Gold Cup, and most would be inclined to take Mullins at his word. After all, Mullins knows a thing or twoabout training champion racehorses.
And yet, it’s hard to say the 6/4 is a great price all things considered. A lot of things can happen in the next three months, and ante-post bettors run the risk of seeing any sense of value disappear. You must ask yourself, will the price be much lower as an SP on Gold Cup Day? It would take a tremendous leap of faith by punters to back any horse into odds-on prices in a race like that, not least one who is largely untested at the distance and level. Galopin Des Champs looks every inch a Gold Cup contender, and he may land another crown for Team Mullins. But at this stage in the game, you have to look very long and hard to see him as a value bet.