Mullins has serious Gold Cup contender in Sir Des Champs

Willie Mullins has never won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but in Sir Des Champs he has a serious contender.

That is the only logical conclusion to be drawn, following the stunning success of the Davy Russell-partnered six-year-old in the Jewson Novices’ Chase.

Many observers felt Sir Des Champs was running in the wrong race and should have gone for Wednesday’s three-mile RSA Chase instead.

But the horse’s owners, Gigginstown House Stud (Michael and Eddie O’Leary), had First Lieutentant for that and so Sir Des Champs was sent for this two and half-miler.

Truth to tell, however, he toyed with the opposition and it was always only a matter of when Russell let out an inch of rein.

Champion Court went for glory over the sixth last, but was soon stalked by the winner. “All I had to do was keep him on his feet”, reported Russell subsequently.

He waited until the final fence before delivering his challenge, and momentum was briefly delayed as Sir Des Champs got in a trifle close to the fence.

But Russell, unperturbed, soon asked his charge to quicken and the response was immediate and deeply impressive.

“He’s just a good horse, it is the first time he has had a real test this season”, said Mullins. “He is a class individual and the plan was to be near the front from the start.

“I didn’t mind which race he went for and I don’t think the horse would even mind going back in trip.

“He’s big and long-striding and a natural jumper. I told Eddie that whatever race they wanted to run him in was fine with me, as long as he came back here next year on the Friday (Gold Cup).

“I’d say he is one of the best horses I have ever had, make no mistake: this is a racehorse. We’ve travelled around the country with him to avoid other Gigginstown horses.

“He’s arrived here rather under the radar, I could see he had a fair bit in the tank coming to the last.”

Russell was suitably impressed and said: “He was brilliant, wing, wing, wing all of the way. It was easy.

“He is very good and an awful lot of the credit has to go to Aaron Madden, who absolutely adores this horse.

“Aaron has looked after him since the first day he arrived in Ireland and has done a wonderful job.

“Everything went swimmingly and he is a good one. The last two fences were, maybe, a bit tight, but I needed the company anyway as it turned out.

“I was always going to be positive, he stays further. My only worry was that he wouldn’t travel, but he travelled lovely. He did everything with aplomb.”

Michael O’Leary said: “This is the first time the horse has had it put up to him and he did it very well. It was another peach of a ride around Cheltenham by Davy. It’s terrific, fantastic and Willie is a genius anyway.

“We have been hitting the crossbar all week and it is nice to finally stick one in the net. Willie has brought him along slowly and probably thought he wanted a lot further, but we had First Lieutenant in the other race.

“We just missed with him yesterday and it’s actually very refreshing not to be looking at Nicky Henderson’s bum, which I have been looking at all week. When you die and go to Heaven this is what it’s going to be like.”

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