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Day four of the Cheltenham Festival is one of the great afternoons in the racing calendar.

So much of the campaign has led to the six and a half minutes of pulsating action at just after 3.30 pm – when the boldest and brashest of staying chasers look each other in the eye and give no quarter – and only the toughest and most talented make sure their names are remembered in sporting history. The Gold Cup is the race every trainer, jockey and owner wants to win.

Willie Mullins has had his name written on the trophy twice now, with Al Boum Photo doing the business in 2019 and 2020.

This term he has arguably his strongest contender ever for the race in Galopin Des Champs – a horse who has blitzed everything put in front of him since being sent over fences.

He had the Turners in safekeeping when unshipping at the final obstacle at last year’s meeting, but since then the seven-year-old has looked well and truly the real deal.

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Galopin Des Champs

The big question about him is whether he’ll stay the extra two and a half furlongs, though most racecourse evidence suggests he’ll take it in his stride.

There is any number of dangers to him, with perhaps the most notable being Bravemansgame. Paul Nicholls will bid for a record fifth win in the Gold Cup, and his improving chaser must have every chance of adding to that tally.

A scintillating winner of the King George, the eight-year-old is one of the finest jumpers the game has ever seen – if he handles the track with as much aplomb as he did Kempton, then his chance Is there to see.

And neither can you discount last year’s winner, A Plus Tard. It’s not been a smooth campaign for Henry De Bromhead’s contender, with just one outing resulting in a pulled-up effort in the Betfair Chase.

It would be some performance to win the Gold Cup off the back of that, but his performance in the contest last year lingers long in the mind and if he produces something similar then he’ll be mighty tough to beat.

De Bromhead also fields his other former winner of the race, Minella Indo. Although not quite the force he was, he ran a terrific race at Tramore on New Year’s Day and it’s well-known how much he enjoys Cheltenham.

He just got the better of Stattler that day, another who is sure to be suited by the Gold Cup trip. Throw in Protektorat, Noble Yeats, Conflated and Ahoy Senor and we have a race worthy of its historic past.

The Gold Cup is undoubtedly the highlight of the afternoon, but with the staying novices fighting it out in the Albert Bartlett, the juveniles taking centre stage in the Triumph, and the Hunters having a go in the Challenge Cup, every base is covered.

So sit back, relax and enjoy.

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Minella Indo
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