Paul Townend moves closer to Champion Jockey title with Novice Hurdle win

Galopin Des Champs blew his rivals away in Grade One race at Cheltenham but Cork jockey had to be content with second in the Irish Gold Cup
Paul Townend moves closer to Champion Jockey title with Novice Hurdle win

Galopin Des Champs and Paul Townend win the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle (Grade 1). Picture: Healy Racing

PAUL Townend is now six wins clear of rival Rachael Blackmore in the race to be crowned the 2021 Champion Jockey.

The Lisgoold native missed out on the Irish Gold Cup as English raider Clan Des Obeaux held off home hope Al Boum Photo, but Galopin Des Champs blew his rivals away with an impressive display to win the Grade One Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle at Punchestown.

The ex-French five-year-old was having just his fifth start since joining the formidable Willie Mullins team and looks an exciting prospect.

Galopin Des Champs was one of the three Cheltenham Festival winners in the nine-runner field, having taken the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle last month, and he had no trouble proving his worth at the top level.

Stattler, stablemate of the winner, made the running - but Galopin Des Champs was always travelling easily for Paul Townend and went on after jumping the second-last flight.

The 13-8 favourite stormed clear to score by 12 lengths. Gentlemansgame took second place by a length and a half from Stattler.

Townend said: "It was straightforward. He settled lovely, but you have to for a three-mile race like that.

"I was in front a hell of a lot earlier than I anticipated – I won't say too soon because he’s won – though definitely a lot sooner than I thought I would be."

Jockey Paul Townend. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Jockey Paul Townend. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Mullins said: "He's very slick over his hurdles. I said to Paul 'what did you think?' and he said he could be a Stayers' Hurdle candidate. I like to go chasing with them quickly. We'll see."

The Closutton handler completed a Grade One double when Kilcruit (11-8) reversed Cheltenham bumper form with stablemate Sir Gerhard.

The latter got the verdict by half a length there, but he was only third this time as Kilcruit turned the tables in emphatic fashion in the ITM - Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race.

Lake Winnipesaukee soon built up an early lead, but he was caught well over half a mile out with Kilcruit enjoying a dream run on the rail to get into contention under Derek O'Connor.

Sir Gerhard ranged alongside but was soon brushed aside by Kilcruit (11-8), who went on to score by four and three-quarter lengths from O'toole. Sir Gerhard (5-6 favourite) was another length and three-quarters back in third.

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