Cheltenham Tips: Ruby Walsh’s Gold Cup preview for the Festival

Ruby takes a deep dive into the Cheltenham Gold Cup options and thinks just one runner has the full profile.


Ruby Walsh Gold Cup Preview

Selection: Galopin Des Champs

I don’t think stamina is an issue with Galopin Des Champs for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He still has to go and prove he stays the 3m 2f distance but in my opinion he will. Some may question his ability despite his win in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.

That was partly because of the pace of the race – they didn’t go really quick. Now obviously when you don’t go too quick, races tend to build from further out and that does become a stamina contest, just in a different way. Fury Road made him go, he got the better of Fury Road after the last fence and I loved the way he went through the finish line. Look how far Paul Townend had to go past the stands to pull him up. All the indications are there that he will stay the 3m 2f Gold Cup trip.

I don’t think stamina is an issue but he still has to go and do it.

My opinion is he will.


He’s relaxed, he’s a more mature horse this year. He was good in the John Durkan Chase and he was very good again at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival. Paul Townend went for a big jump on him at the fence past the stands and Galopin Des Champs absolutely pinged it and then he went to the next fence and danced on the take-off board.

When you light him up now, he still switches himself back off, which he didn’t do last season. So to me now, he has the ideal profile for a Gold Cup horse. He has the pace to win over shorter trips and he looks like he’ll stay the 3m 2f distance of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He ticks all the boxes.

Are we forgetting about A Plus Tard?

I don’t know are we forgetting about him, definitely not. Obviously we only saw him once at Haydock this season and it was so bad, it couldn’t be true. He was due to run at Christmas – we know he knocked his joint and didn’t run. The vibes now seem right about him. His trainer Henry de Bromhead had a winner or two and a couple of his other horses are running well.

I thought his horses looked particularly well at Punchestown last week. There was a gleam off them, particularly the horse that won the maiden hurdle, I thought he looked a picture. Not round, heavy like a shire horse, but lean and fit, the skin on the horse looked like an otter’s. Henry’s horses are just starting to look particularly well. They haven’t been out of form, but they maybe haven’t been as hot as they have been at other times of the year. I have a feeling that Henry’s runners are starting to come into really good form.

Last year’s Gold Cup form?

I thought it was an outstanding performance by A Plus Tard, but there’s no way you can dodge around that the pace wasn’t frantic. He sat behind a strongly-run race and let the previous winner go down the hill and kick off the bend, then Rachael Blackmore got the split going to the second last. We were talking about Galopin Des Champs from the last home at Leopardstown, but A Plus Tard was brilliant from the last home in last year’s Gold Cup.

A Plus Tard was beaten too far out at Haydock for us to be able to say the Gold Cup win left its mark but I watched a couple of Henry’s horses run in the UK before Christmas and two or three of them ran shockingly. Even Envoi Allen in the King George just ran unbelievably bad. Why – I couldn’t tell you! There was just too many of them that should have run decent races that bombed-out completely. I don’t know what it was.

Of Willie Mullins’ other runner I thought Capodanno ran well, jumped a bit high, a bit exuberant, it was a good first run. He’s an each-way outsider that could run well in a Gold Cup. I don’t see him as a Gold Cup winner but look I’d say lesser horses have won Gold Cups.

The trip will suit Stattler who ran well in a slowly run Irish Gold Cup. He was probably flattered to be second, as Fury Road should have been the runner-up but ran all over the track. If Stattler was third that day you’d be looking at him differently now for the Gold Cup.

Is Noble Yeats a player?

Do I think the Grand National winner Noble Yeats will win the Gold Cup – I probably don’t. He could be placed though. He wasn’t knocked about in the Cotswold Chase as it was used as a prep for him and he came home well behind Ahoy Senor.

Ahoy Senor can run well in the Gold Cup, Noble Yeats can run really well but the three of them – Ahoy Senor, Stattler and Noble Yeats need the Gold Cup to be a stamina-sapping marathon if they’re going to get involved at the business end. It depends what gets on the front early to set the pace.

Ahoy Senor probably is the one that could do that [from the front], I don’t see Noble Yeats or Stattler  can get out in front and stay there like Native River did a few seasons ago.

What about Hewick?

I thought he’d be too slow to win the Galway Plate, he won that. I thought he had too much weight to win the Kerry National, he was going to win that until he unseated his jockey at the last. Hewick is just going in one direction and long may it continue for him and The Shark Hanlon.

Verdict 1-2-3?

Galopin Des Champs, A Plus Tard, Bravemansgame.

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