Paul Townend both delighted and relieved following a fruitful Cheltenham Festival
Townend and trainer Willie Mullins had previously landed the blue riband with Al Boum Photo in 2019 and 2020 and Galopin Des Champs' seven-length triumph over Bravemansgame leaves Townend needing just one more win to equal Pat Taaffe as the most successful rider in the race's history.
Galopin Des Champs had dominated the Gold Cup market from an early stage and that confidence proved justified as he put a last-fence fall in the 2022 Turners Novices' Chase well behind him with an impressive triumph. Townend ranks the seven-year-old as one of his best mounts - although he holds Al Boum Photo in high esteem after his Festival strikes - but admitted he felt the pressure ahead of the main event. He said: "Every winner in Cheltenham is special but the Gold Cup is the Gold Cup and it has an extra spice about it, with plenty of pressure riding a horse being so well fancied. It was brilliant the way it worked out. "I thought the start was a bit of a joke to be honest, for a Gold Cup, as we were on the back foot as there were horses jumping left and right and into me, which made him (Galopin Des Champs) become a bit careful. All credit to him for coming back down from the air and into a rhythm and bar the third-last he was pretty good on the final circuit. "At Leopardstown, I gave him a few flicks and he took off for me and yesterday he galloped out through the line and I actually had to stop him - it was a huge, huge performance. "He is right up there with the best of the horses I've ridden, but Al Boum won two though." Townend was crowned top jockey for a third time, with Mullins picking up a 10th trainer's accolade with the pair securing five victories together, while the handler enjoyed a sixth success with his son Patrick. The team struck Grade One gold with the likes of Arkle runner El Fabiolo, Champion Chase victor Energumene, Ballymore Novices' Hurdle scorer Impaire Et Passe and Triumph Hurdle victor Lossiemouth, who led home a one-two-three-four for Mullins. Townend added: "It was brilliant, a good meeting. It's nice to be leading rider there - I suppose you're kind of expected to be when you're riding for Willie with the ammunition he brings over, but it doesn't always work out like that."
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