Fast approaching a century of Cheltenham Festival winners, Willie Mullins will not be short of happy memories of spring days in the Cotswolds when he finally decides to call time on his fantastic career.

That’s probably a long way off, by the way. He’s now 66, but almost half of those Festival successes have come since he turned 60. We could say he’s only just getting started.

But when he does find moments to reflect, he will likely turn first to Al Boum Photo, the horse that finally won him a coveted Gold Cup in 2019, a victory that tasted all the sweeter after smacking the crossbar with runners-up on six previous occasions.

Al Boum Photo then doubled up the following year and, now that this phenomenal trainer is getting the hang of it, more Gold Cups will surely follow, quite likely starting with Galopin Des Champs on Friday afternoon.

Everything that has gone before has been leading up to this particular day. Galopin Des Champs won over hurdles at the 2021 Festival and would definitely have added the Turner Novices’ Chase 12 months ago had he not tumbled at the last with a 12-length lead, his only blemish in six races over fences.

On this year’s form, he is a stand-out today, not by a huge amount but with clearly more to offer.

True, A Plus Tard’s devastating performance in last year’s Gold Cup reads better than anything Galopin Des Champs has achieved so far, but their career trajectories are now maybe going in opposite directions.

The temptation is always to find a negative in a favourite and some pundits wonder whether Galopin Des Champs has the stamina for the Gold Cup (three-and-a-quarter miles and quite gruelling if the pace is hot) after spending most of his career excelling over shorter distances.

Gold Cup tips

  • 1 Galopin Des Champs 2-1
  • 2 A Plus Tard 7-1
  • 3 Ahoy Senor 20-1

See all of Jon’s Day 4 tips here

When is the Gold Cup 2023?

The 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup takes place at 3.30pm on Friday 17 March, with live TV coverage on ITV.

His emphatic win over three miles at Leopardstown last month hasn’t totally silenced the doubters because it was a slowly-run race.

But Mullins, surely the best judge in this situation, doesn’t see a problem.

“I was amazed that the Press were making a thing of the horse never having won over three miles over fences,” he said after Leopardstown. “He did as a novice over hurdles (in a Grade One), which is way harder than doing it over fences. To me, he can go four miles.”

Many of the others lining up have been busy beating each other over the past year and are all capable of running into a place on a good day.

Noble Yeats has improved since winning the Grand National and definitely won’t be beaten for lack of endurance, but Ahoy Senor, the pride of Scotland, is a real old-fashioned Gold Cup type and could give them all a scare if his jumping holds together.

Protektorat and Bravemansgame, winners of this season’s Betfair Chase and King George VI Chase respectively, are England’s best hopes, but the likelihood is that the Gold Cup will go to Ireland for the fifth year in a row.

Gold Cup 2023 runners and riders, and odds

  • Galopin des Champs (PTownend) 15-8
  • Bravemasgame (H Cobden) 7-1
  • A Plus Tard (R Blackmore) 7-1
  • Noble Yeats (S Bowen) 9-1
  • Stattler (PW Mullins) 11-1
  • Conflated (DN Russell) 14-1
  • Protektorat (H Skelton) 14-1
  • Ahoy Senor (DR Fox) 20-1
  • Minella Indo (MP Walsh) 22-1
  • Sounds Russian (S Quinlan) 33-1
  • Hewick (JC Gainford) 40-1
  • Royal Pagaille (C Deutsch) 50-1
  • Eldorado Allen (B Powell) 125-1

Odds correct on Thursday 16 March.

Hoiles’ Gold Cup 2023 tips

Ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, i sat down with ITV Racing commentator Richard Hoiles to get his insight on how to pick a winner and his tips for the week.

Here’s what he said about the Gold Cup:

“The Gold Cup is one of those races where Galopin des Champs is a little bit like the up-and-coming horse, but he has a lot more to prove yet to my mind.

“If you want to tip against a horse, you really want to try and do is look at what conditions he would least be suited by and work out which others in the field would therefore be suited by those conditions.

“If he’s not going to stay, it would be because it’s turned into an absolute mudbath come Friday and if that’s the case, there’s a horse called Stattler who won the National Hunt Chase last year at the Festival. Yes, it was a lower grade, slower race. But if it turns really really attritional, then it would suit him.

“There’s another horse in the same race at a big, big price called Royal Pagaille, trained by Venetia Williams, who also is a little bit underestimated under those conditions.

“I would reserve how much I staked on those horses until I got an accurate Cheltenham weather forecast midway through the week, and the muddier it got, the more interested I’d be.”

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