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Carlow village welcomes Gold Cup winners in homecoming

Galopin Des Champs must be getting quite used to victory parades in Leighlinbridge, as for the second successive year, the Co Carlow Village turned out to welcome home the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.

Last week, trainer Willie Mullins had his fourth Gold Cup victory in six years, but there was another historic benchmark too, as he became the first ever handler to reach, and bypass, a 100 winners at the festival.

He is also the first trainer to win the Gold Cup twice with two different horses after wins in 2019 and 2020 with Al Boum Photo.

A crowd of several hundred watched the champ Galopin take it all in his stride alongside fellow festival success stories Stateman and Jasmin De Vaux, Mr Mullins’ 100th festival winner.

Willie Mullins, left, won his fourth Gold Cup on Friday

The trio were accompanied by Mr Mullins, jockey Paul Townend and Galopin’s proud owners, the Turley family.

Audrey Turley was still coming to terms with what happened on Friday.

She said: “I think it’s going to take a long time, if ever, I think we’ll take this to the end of our days, the excitement, the thrill, and the privilege of being involved in this fantastic team.”

Last week saw Mr Mullins saddle another nine Cheltenham winners to be crowned leading trainer for a record 11th time.

He said: “I mean that time we brought over probably one horse and would have been delighted to have a winner, I thought it would have been a fifetime achievement.

“Irish trainers didn’t comprehend having more than one winner in their lifetime in Cheltenham. How the tide has changed.”

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Last Friday’s success was also Gold Cup number four for Mr Townend, who also won it back-to-back on Al Boum Photo.

His sense of disbelief matched that of Mr Mullins.

He said: “If I started out and someone promised to me four festival winners, I’d have taken their hand, to have four Gold Cups… it’s not imaginable.

“I’m just very fortunate to be riding for that great man.”

Today’s reception was perhaps the perfect curtain call for another week of remarkable success for Team Mullins.

One of the many well wishers probably put it best when shaking the trainer’s hand when they said: “Well done again Willie, Same time next year I suppose?”

Ahead of the homecoming, the owner of the Lord Bagenal Inn in the village said there was great excitement as Mr Mullins is very highly regarded in the area, adding that he is “a true gentleman”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, James Kehoe said “it was a great week” in Cheltenham and everyone in the village has been asking “when is Willie coming?”

He said around 100 people are expected to come out this evening to welcome the winners back home.

“It’s an amazing week really,” he said.

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Mr Kehoe said that Mr Mullins is a great supporter of his pub and has been going there since 1979.

“We’ve been through thick and thin, tremendous recessions and through Covid-19 and he has become what is now the greatest National Hunt trainer in the world, no doubt. And you know something?

“He hasn’t changed since the first time I met him in 1979-1980. And he’s still a gentleman out and out, and I think if you pick up the phone and ask anyone in the village, they would all say the same”.

He explained that Willie Mullins has his yard very close to Leighlinbridge and he employs 80 or 90 people, most living in the village.

“The whole Mullins family is here to support this whole village,” he said.

“We became a focal point because of Willie. That’s our claim to fame.”

He said there will be a parade through the village, with the horse walking across the bridge.

All are welcome, he said, “so god willing it will be good night.”


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