Cheltenham Festival

'As brilliant a ride as I've ever seen in any horserace' - McCoy heaps praise on Townend after Gold Cup masterclass

Paul Townend: xxxxx
Paul Townend roars with delight after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Galopin Des ChampsCredit: Michael Steele

Paul Townend was feted for producing “as brilliant a ride as I have ever seen in a horserace” by multiple champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy after guiding red-hot favourite Galopin Des Champs to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday.

Held up at the back of the field, Galopin Des Champs picked off his rivals one by one to come through and challenge Bravemansgame at the final fence before surging up the hill to claim a third success in the race for Townend.

The skill and patience shown by Townend was extolled by McCoy. Asked what he made of the performance, he said: “As brilliant a ride as I have ever seen in a horserace – talk about riding a horse with bottle. Oh my god.

“Talk about pressure – the privilege of pressure – and oh my god he’s coped with it better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Paul Townend: xxxxx
Paul Townend: ability to brush off criticism was praised by Ruby WalshCredit: Alan Crowhurst

Galopin Des Champs was a faller at the final fence when clear in the Turners Novices’ Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, while Townend has been criticised at points during the week for his rides on the likes of Facile Vega in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Appreciate It in the Turners Novices’ Chase.

Ruby Walsh praised Townend’s ability to brush off criticism and produce a riding performance like he did on the Cheltenham Gold Cup market leader Galopin Des Champs.

“I echo AP’s words completely,” he said. “You come to Cheltenham with all the pressure and to drop him in and ride him the way he rode him [was brilliant].

“He’s probably been listening to people like me giving out all week when he does something wrong, so to be able to put that all away and go and do what he’s just done I’m delighted for him. He deserves every plaudit he gets.”

He added: “There was brilliant race riding in there too. Harry Cobden [on Bravemansgame] kept it all tight off the home turn – it was a compelling race to watch. You wanted Bravemansgame and Galopin Des Champs going at it to the last – that’s what horseracing’s about. I thought it was magic.”

Winning trainer Willie Mullins said: "Paul is so good under pressure and I’ve been putting him under some fair pressure this week. It was a huge ride from Paul I thought – ride of the week anyway.”

Martin Pipe: legendary trainer admired by Amy Murphy
Martin Pipe on Paul Townend: "He just seems so calm. He takes everything in his stride"Credit: Alan Crowhurst

Britain’s 15-time champion trainer Martin Pipe was among those outside the Mullins camp to pay tribute to Townend’s calm winning ride, highlighting how he “didn’t panic when others might have”.

Pipe said: “It was a great ride, terrific in fact. He just sat there where he was for the first half of the race and didn’t panic when others might have. He produced him at the perfect time and got a great jump at the last when he really needed it.

“He just seems so calm. He takes everything in his stride. He has a level head and, in this game, that is a very important asset to have. He’s a terrific rider and the trainer he rides for isn’t too bad either!”

Gordon Elliott, who trained the third in Conflated, called “it was as good a ride as you would see in a Gold Cup”, while Rich Ricci, who had earlier teamed up with Townend for Lossiemouth’s win in the Triumph Hurdle, said the jockey was a special talent.

Ricci said: “Paul is riding with such great confidence at the moment and you can really see that with his Gold Cup ride. That was all about confidence. I thought he was superb on Lossiemouth too, never panicked and did the right thing the whole way. He's a special talent.”

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Peter ScargillDeputy industry editor
Published on 17 March 2023Last updated 17:44, 17 March 2023