Mullins can be a tough boss but his admiration for Townend shines through after Galopin's Gold Cup
It had all been so different when this festival opened. As horses and riders returned following the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, the Gold Cup must have looked like a dot in the distance to Paul Townend and Willie Mullins. No combination came to Cheltenham with a stronger hand, yet each and every runner matters, particularly the ones who are supposed to win. Facile Vega was supposed to win but did not. At that point, Galopin Des Champs and the Gold Cup really did seem a long way away.
Here had been an immediate shot at redemption for Townend. One month earlier, Mullins was publicly critical of his stable jockey's performance on Facile Vega at Leopardstown. "We'll probably just have to ride him like a racehorse rather than a machine the next time," said Mullins, leaving nobody in any doubt he believed Townend had messed up the front-running tactics. He retained faith in the horse and also the jockey but found no consolation in the Supreme.
Townend did nothing wrong in the festival curtain raiser but defeat to Marine Nationale still smarted. When approached by reporters for a comment, he declined to offer any thoughts. Mullins was initially no keener to talk but then El Fabiolo won the Arkle and everything changed.
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