As we build up to the big off on Tuesday, there is surely no bigger draw during festival week than the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.
One year off its centenary this year, previous winners stand as the very cream of the Sport of Kings.
Arkle, L’Escargot and more recently Best Mate, Kauto Star and Denman grace the halls of glory from this epic showdown.
This year, the contenders are lining up once more but will it be Galopin De Champs to seal Gold Cup glory in 2023?
Rewind to Cheltenham last year and Galopin Des Champs looked well set for a second successive festival win.
After victory in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle in 2021, Willie Mullins waited to pouch yet another Cheltenham victory.
Indeed, for 15 of the 16 fences in the Turner Novices’ Chase, the double was in the bag.
But as Mullins’ 6yo climbed over the final hurdle with a 12-length lead as 5/6f, Galopin Des Champs landed awkwardly, stumbled and fell in dramatic scenes.
Leaving the trailing Bob Olinger and Rachael Blackmore to pick up the pieces, Cheltenham was left stunned.
For Jockey Paul Townend and all involved, it was a bitter pill of defeat to swallow.
Yet, after woe 12 months back, the French gelding looks primed to deliver a year on.
In fact, Galopin Des Champs looks close to one of the shoo-ins of the festival.
Mullins’ magic touch
From his first outing, Galopin Des Champs looked bound for greatness.
Mullins knew it also, catching his eye on home debut at Auteuil just six months into his career.
Prepped with hopes for later in the season, Galopin was given runs at Gowran Park, Limerick and Leopardstown.
It was in the latter race at a price of 100/1, he came a hugely creditable sixth. The penny dropped.
Going off at 8/1 in his Cheltenham bow, Sean O Keeffe picked a steady trip and held off the similarly priced Langer Dan to take the winning post.
As Mullins’ number one jockey, Townend then took the reins for the trip back to Ireland for the Irish Novice Hurdle.
The 11-length victory margin was emphatic.
When Galopin Des Champs then began the 2021 season with a Leopardstown double, the Turners’ seemed to be academic.
But destiny dealt a cruel blow from the jaws of victory.
Galopin Des Champs courting destiny?
But could fate bite back this year?
Once more, Galopin arrives at Cheltenham looking to take his streak to four on the bounce.
Irish dominance has been the fulcrum of success but it would unfair to class this French gentleman as a bad traveller even if there is little evidence in his defence.
There will be just an element of doubt in the mind however, that since debut just one win has come away from his adopted shores of the Emerald Isle.
The fact remains though, that in eight outings since Cheltenham 2021, just once have the spoils of victory not been sampled.
With wins by 18, 13 and most recently, eight lengths on the slate, yes, Noble Yeats will have eyes on a Gold Cup-Grand National double but the sporting gods may be on hand.
It may also be true that A Plus Tard will not surrender the crown lightly either; but Galopin Des Champs is very much the horse to beat to the festival’s most prized trophy.