- Galopin Des Champs won the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup for Willie Mullins
- It meant the Irish champion trainer mopped up four Grade One contests
- Hermes Allen suffered a fatal fall at Sandown, leaving trainer Paul Nicholls bereft
Much more of this and the promotions and advertising departments at Leopardstown racecourse will need to convene to rename their flagship meeting.
The Dublin Racing Festival on Saturday became The Mullins Racing Festival as Willie, Ireland’s champion trainer, mopped up all four Grade One contests — with three of the victors being ridden by his nephew, Danny.
It was, Danny said with a beaming smile, the ‘best day of my career’ after he had guided Dancing City, Kargese and Il Etait Temps home in the first three races (at combined odds of 534-1) but the biggest success came last — Galopin Des Champs in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.
A 1-3 winning favourite of a four-horse race would not usually make great headlines but Galopin Des Champs is different — the outstanding winner of last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup will return to defend his crown in 40 days with an aura of invincibility.
He does so on the back of a performance that got faster and sharper the longer it went on and the manner in which Galopin Des Champs turned Fastorslow, a rival who had beaten him twice in 2023, from the last fence was both thrilling and brutal.
Galopin Des Champs won the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup during the Dublin Racing Festival
Rider Paul Townend said Galopin Des Champs ‘sets the standard’ on a big day in racing
‘This was a big day and he sets the standard,’ said rider Paul Townend. ‘This was a sweet feeling and makes up for missing out on the earlier ones. I knew I had a chance because Danny wasn’t in this race.
‘This fella was the big bullet and he hit the bullseye. This lad is so honest, he tries his best for you all the time. On his day, he is different to anything else in this [Gold Cup] division. Sure, he’s the Gold Cup winner. You can’t knock him. He’s got everything.’
Hermes Allen, the promising novice chaser co-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, suffered a fatal fall at Sandown on Saturday in an incident that left trainer Paul Nicholls bereft.
The gelding was sent off favourite for the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase on the back of his performance at Kempton on Boxing Day, when he tried in vain to keep tabs on the magnificent Il Est Francais.
But Hermes Allen, whose biggest success came in Newbury’s Grade One Challow Hurdle in December 2022, crumpled at the second last fence yesterday and sustained irreparable damage.
He had worn the yellow silks of co-owner John Hales.
The race was won by Nickle Back, a 10-1 shot, who was giving jockey James Best and trainer Sarah Humphrey their first triumph at the highest level.
Hermes Allen suffered a fatal fall at Sandown on Saturday (pictured at Kempton in December)
Nickle Back gave James Best and Sarah Humphrey their first triumph at the highest level
Best said: ‘I just can’t believe it. Growing up you watch these races on the TV and dream of becoming a jockey.
‘I love the fact I’m a jockey, let alone winning races like this.
‘I was gobsmacked I was on him for his first chasing start at Warwick and for everyone to put their faith in me with this wonderful horse means so much.’
Earlier on the Sandown card, Peking Opera — once under Aidan O’Brien’s care — emerged as a Triumph Hurdle contender with a gutsy debut win over obstacles for new trainer Gary Moore.