Gold Cup hero Galopin all set for Punchestown return

State Man another Willie Mullins big gun due to run this weekend.

Paul Townend is relishing the prospect of being reunited with Galopin Des Champs this weekend, when the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero bids for back-to-back victories in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.

The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old kicked off a tremendous campaign with victory in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One last season before going on to lift the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and the blue riband at Prestbury Park in March.

He suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Martin Brassil’s Fastorslow on his final start of the campaign in the Punchestown Gold Cup – and the pair are set to renew rivalry in the feature event on day two of the new-look Winter Festival in County Kildare.

Paul Townend returns to the winner's enclosure aboard Galopin Des Champs
Paul Townend returns to the winner’s enclosure aboard Galopin Des Champs (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I’m looking forward to Galopin Des Champs, every day you get to get up on a Gold Cup winner is a brilliant day and they’re the type of horses we wall want,” said Townend.

“He takes on Fastorslow, which won’t be an easy task. He beat us here at the Festival, so we’ll have to try to get our own back on him.”

Galopin Des Champs and Fastorslow are two of nine horses in contention for the John Durkan, with Mullins also responsible for Appreciate It, Asterion Forlonge, Blue Lord and Stattler.

Gordon Elliott’s pair of Conflated and Farouk D’alene, and French Dynamite from Mouse Morris’ yard, complete the potential field.

Mullins and Elliott are the only two trainers represented in Saturday’s main event, the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle.

State Man winning last year's Morgiana Hurdle
State Man winning last year’s Morgiana Hurdle (Brian Lawless/PA)

State Man provided Mullins with a ninth win in the last 10 years when successful 12 months ago and is in the mix once again alongside stablemates Impaire Et Passe, Ashroe Diamond and Echoes In Rain.

Townend, who will presumably be on the stable’s first string, added: “It’s the most exciting time of year – none of them have been beaten yet (this season)!

“It’s a joy to go into Willie’s and look at the board and see the names. There’s a lot of big names from last year and a lot of new horses there – we’re trying to find the next superstar at this time of year.”

The Elliott trio of Fils D’oudairies, Irish Point and Pied Piper are the other Morgiana hopefuls.

He is likely to run at least two of the three, and said: “Pied Piper will go for the Morgiana. He’s hard to place but we’ll have a go. He’s in good form and he’s had his good run on the Flat the last day.

“I’ll probably run Fils D’oudairies as well. On ratings he has a lot to find, but it could be only a three- or four-runner race.”

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