HomeRacing irishTop Mullins Horses Showcase their Cheltenham Festival Credentials at Leopardstown

Top Mullins Horses Showcase their Cheltenham Festival Credentials at Leopardstown

Top Mullins Horses Showcase their Cheltenham Festival Credentials at Leopardstown

Some of Irish trainer Willie Mullins’ leading contenders for the 2024 Cheltenham Festival showcased their credentials with eye-catching performances at Leopardstown over the festive period.

The undisputed star of the show was Galopin Des Champs, who bounced backed to form with a vengeance by romping home in the Savills Chase.

The seven-year-old had been beaten twice since winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, but produced a power-packed display on this occasion.

His rivals had no answer to his brilliant jumping, leaving jockey Paul Townend with the luxury of cruising home on the run-in for an emphatic 23-lengths victory.

Online bookmakers had pushed Galopin Des Champs out in the ante-post market for the Gold Cup in recent weeks, but were forced to take evasive action after this performance.

A handful of the best Irish horse racing betting sites rate Mullins’ charge as an 11/8 chance to defend his title, but several other bookmakers make him an Evens shot.

Mullins said: “Paul was keen to change tactics – he wanted to bounce out and let him enjoy himself over the first few fences. I said ‘let’s do that’ because the last twice he was beaten and things didn’t work out.

“I think the horse gave it back to Paul. When I saw him jumping the first the way he did I thought ‘right, game on here today’ He fiddled a few fences after that but Paul was very happy at all stages.

“He showed his absolute stamina in the way he galloped away from the third-last, down over the second-last and then up over the last.

“I was hugely impressed by him. I didn’t know what to expect as his work had been a little bit indifferent at home. We tried a few different things with him and obviously they must have worked.”

“He put everything together, he really enjoyed himself, and Paul made the right decision to get him out early, get him up there and let him enjoy himself.”

Mullins was also on the scoresheet in the Matheson Hurdle, with State Man having little difficulty swatting aside highly-touted stablemate Impaire Et Passe.

State Man finished a distant second behind Constitution Hill in the 2023 Champion Hurdle, but is on course to have another crack at him in March.

The horse claimed a three-and-a-quarter-lengths victory under Townend and has been cut from 5/1 to 4/1 to emerge victorious at Cheltenham.

While the manner of his victory pleased Mullins, he was gracious enough to admit that the reigning champion will be difficult to beat as bids to secure back-to-back wins.

“State Man showed tremendous gears today,” Mullins added. “Daryl (Jacob) came in on Impaire Et Passe and he said ‘we quickened twice and then Paul quickened away again a third time’.

“Daryl thought he maybe had Paul where he wanted him at the second-last and he said he quickened twice between the last two and Paul went away again.

“Testing conditions might really suit State Man, so we will be praying for rain over Cheltenham! He ran a great race last March, finishing second to Constitution Hill.

“Hopefully will be around to keep Constitution Hill straight, but I don’t think Nicky Henderson and Michael Buckley are going to be worried.”

Ballyburn was another notable winner for the Mullins stable, romping home 25-lengths clear of his rivals to win the Pigsback.com Maiden Hurdle.

The Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham is now on the agenda for the horse, who has been cut from odds of 7/1 to 5/1 for the race.

Jade De Grugy made an impressive winning debut for the Mullins yard in the Savills Maiden Hurdle to earn quotes of 14/1 for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The trainer was also on target with Grangeclare West in the Nevills Hotels Novice Chase, with the horse finally showing why Cheveley Park Stud paid £430,000 to buy him.

He went off the boil after winning a couple of races last season, but travelled in the manner of a top-class performer to ease clear of some hugely talented rivals.

Mullins said: “I didn’t expect that now – I thought he would run well, but that was a top race.

“Paul was worried about him pulling too hard and he’d want to be as fit as he is because he just pulled his arms out for the three miles. To do that, on that ground and win like that going away was a huge performance.

“His jumping was excellent. He just came out of Paul’s hands at the first fence and from then on Paul was just trying to settle him back. He got him back jumping normally. He’s just a natural chaser.”

Grangeclare West is now 4/1 favourite for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham Festival and could be tough to beat if he produces the same level of form.

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