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Irish Gold Cup: Galopin Des Champs downs Fastorslow in Dublin Racing Festival classic for Paul Townend and Willie Mullins

Galopin Des Champs proved too strong for Fastorslow in a gripping finish to the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown; the defending champion got the better of Fastorslow, who had beaten him in both the Punchestown Gold Cup and the John Durkan Chase

Galopin Des Champs and Paul Townend win the Irish Gold Cup
Image: Galopin Des Champs and Paul Townend win the Irish Gold Cup

Galopin Des Champs is odds-on for the Cheltenham Gold Cup after registering back-to-back successes in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

Leading from flag-fall, Paul Townend was content to set a sedate pace on Willie Mullins' 1-3 favourite, with his old rival Fastorslow never letting him get too far in front.

The pair had met three times in the past, with the score heading into this contest in favour of Martin Brassil's chaser by two victories to one.

Paul Townend celebrated Irish Gold Cup victory with Galopin Des Champs
Image: Paul Townend celebrated Irish Gold Cup victory with Galopin Des Champs

Team Closutton were determined to level the scores before heading to Cheltenham and Townend - who had picked the wrong Mullins-trained representative in the first three Grade Ones of the afternoon - was always in control.

JJ Slevin attempted to make his move after the second-last and aimed to get the rail, but Townend was alive to it and made sure it was not straightforward, while Conflated was not completely out of it on the far side.

Galopin Des Champs jinked to his left approaching the last which just put Fastorslow off for a stride or two, while Conflated unseated Jack Kennedy, but just like at Christmas the winner's most impressive part was the final 100 yards and he pulled four and a half lengths clear.

The winner is now 4-6 (from evens) to repeat his Cheltenham success in March with Betfair and Coral.

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Speaking after the race, Mullins said: "It was a terrific performance. He did it the hard way, out in front and jumped from fence to fence.

"He didn't wait around for anyone and did everything right. Paul was very happy with him. He set his own pace, which is hard to do on soft ground. Paul made sure that he was going to go fast enough and try to suck the energy out of the ones behind, which he did.

He continued: "We thought Conflated might make the running, but from the early stages we knew that wasn't the way. Paul just had to grab the race by the horns, he did and it worked out.

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"I thought for a minute from the fifth-last to the third-last that JJ Slevin's body language was looking very good and he was confident in the horse he was riding.

"When Paul poured a little bit on and got a great jump at the second-last you could see the distress signals coming out and Paul was still happy. He was able to dictate in front."

'He was the big bullet and hit the bullseye'

Townend said: "It was unfortunate in the earlier races, I was just on the wrong ones, but he was the big bullet and he's hit the bullseye.

"I thought he took his fences on well, but for Gold Cup horses we went a bit of a dawdle. When I finally asked him he took them on well.

"I was a little slow at four out, but he jumped well down the back and I didn't want to set him alight too early.

"At the last we were tight to it, quickening up, but he shortened into it and he's an intelligent horse. I was delighted with him, I couldn't knock him in any way."

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