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Galopin Des Champs on course for Bob Olinger clash at Cheltenham

Galopin Des Champs on course for Bob Olinger clash at Cheltenham

Willie Mullins has given the strongest indication yet that Galopin Des Champs will run in the Turner Novices’ Chase rather than the longer Festival Chase. This sets up a clash with Henry de Bromhead’s unbeaten Bob Olinger. It means the Cheltenham Festival now has two potential duels with the eagerly awaited rematch between Shishkin and Energumene in the Champion Chase. We take a look at how the Turners is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the meeting.

Galopin Des Champs could challenge Bob Olinger for favouritism

The Turners Novices’ Chase, previously the Marsh Novices’ Chase, was only introduced to the Cheltenham Festival in 2011. Trainer Willie Mullins has already won it four times, most notably with the high class Sir Des Champs (2012) and Vautour (2015). The news that he is favouring running his exciting novice Galopin Des Champs in this race means that it is now a race to savour.

Galopin Des Champs has been at the head of the market for the Festival Novices’ Chase since routing the opposition by 22 lengths on his chasing debut at Leopardstown in December. That was over an extended two and a half miles and it was widely assumed that he would step up to three miles at Cheltenham. 

He then won the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Novice Chase at the same course by 9 lengths. He was not quite as impressive as on his previous start but he never looked like falling at any stage. He was installed as ante-post favourite for next year’s Gold Cup but clearly has enough speed to win at shorter trips. Bob Olinger, so impressive when winning last season’s Ballymore, has won both of his races over fences comfortably and had been odds-on favourite for the Turners.

L’Homme Presse adds extra dimension to exciting novice chase

Although the market leaders are potentially two of the best chasers to come out of Ireland in recent years, it would be a mistake to believe the Turners is a two-horse race. Venetia Williams is set to run her leading novice L’Homme Presse, unbeaten in four starts over fences and an easy winner of the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

The seven-year-old coasted to a 21 lengths success at Sandown with Charlie Deutsch barely having to move a muscle. He goes well on good to soft or soft ground and looks a natural over fences. He can jump slightly to his left but that is not likely to hinder him at Cheltenham. It remains to be seen how much the field will cut up, especially as Mullins is responsible for 9 of the 23 remaining entries.

Although Paul Nicholls may not say it publicly, he will have been delighted by the news that Mullins is favouring the Turners. Nicholls has Bravemansgame lined up for the Festival Novices Chase and his horse is now a best-priced 2-1 in the likely absence of Galopin Des Champs. It will also offer great encouragement to Scottish Trainer Lucinda Russell who has Ahoy Senor entered for the three-miler. He had been as high as 10-1 recently but the best price available now is 11-2 (NRNB).

Ahoy Senor stunned Bravemansgame over hurdles at Aintree last season but the positions were emphatically reversed in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton. Russell’s gelding has been slower to learn his trade over the larger obstacles but looked more like the finished article last time out at Wetherby.