Galvin, under an inspired ride by Davy Russell, got up in the final stride to win the Grade One Savills Chase at Leopardstown on Tuesday and will now head straight to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March, when he is likely to start at around 5-1 to give Gordon Elliott, his trainer, a second success in chasing’s championship event.
Galvin seemed more likely to finish third when A Plus Tard and Kemboy, the winners in 2020 and 2018 respectively, showed more speed after jumping the second-last, and Elliott’s seven-year-old still had a couple of lengths to find at the final fence.
Russell got a great leap from his partner there, however, and was then able to draw on the stamina which saw Galvin home in front in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in March, closing all the way up the run-in and eventually getting a short-head in front on the line.
“I didn’t know where the line was, I was driving with my head down and the further away the line was, the better chance I had,” Russell told RTE television afterwards. “He really motored from the back of the last. He jumped fantastic and he’s game as a pebble.”
The win was Russell’s first in a Grade One race since returning to race-riding in August after nearly a year on the sidelines with serious injuries to his neck and back, sustained in a fall at Limerick in October 2020, and Elliott’s first in a Grade One chase since November 2020.
“I had a tear in my eye after the race, I’m not afraid to say it,” Elliott, who was banned for six months in March after being photographed posing on a dead horse on his gallops, said afterwards.
“We’ve had a rough year and it’s brilliant for the horse to do this. We started out having a bit of fun around Perth with him and he hasn’t let us down the whole way. That’s 12 races he’s won now, he’s the horse of a lifetime. He stays like hell and he’ll go straight to the Gold Cup now.
“Davy Russell is a great friend of mine, we’ve been friends since riding in point-to-points at 16 or 17 years of age. I’m very lucky to have Davy and Jack [Kennedy] at the moment, that meant a lot to Davy as well, as he’s very close to Ronnie [Bartlett, Galvin’s owner]. We don’t let him ride for anyone else at the moment, he’s too good to be giving to anyone else.”
Bookmakers reacted to Galvin’s win by cutting him to a top price of 7-1 (from as big as 33-1 on Tuesday morning) for the Gold Cup in March, while A Plus Tard, the runner-up behind Minella Indo in last season’s Gold Cup, is out to 4-1 (from 5-2). Minella Indo is a 10-1 chance while Tornado Flyer, Sunday’s King George VI Chase winner at Kempton, is one of several contenders on offer at around 16-1.
Klassical Dream made the most of a flying start to win the Grade One Christmas Hurdle over three miles, as Paul Townend stole half a dozen lengths from his field in the opening moments before holding the strong finish of Flooring Porter by two lengths.
The winner, who landed the Supreme Novice Hurdle over two miles at Cheltenham in 2019, was cut to around 5-2 (from 9-2) for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Festival in March while Flooring Porter, a front-running winner of that race last season, is a 7-1 chance.
“It wasn’t part of the plan,” Willie Mullins, Klassical Dream’s trainer, said. “We were expecting pace in the race but obviously it wasn’t there. Paul said the horse took the initiative, jumped out the gate and went. The horse took over and did everything.”
Mullins completed a double when Galopin Des Champs ran away with the card’s Beginners’ Chase, finishing 22 lengths clear of the runner-up. The winner, a 6-1 shot for the Brown Advisory Novice Chase at the Cheltenham Festival before jumping a fence in public, is now 9-4 favourite, with Bravemansgame, who took the Grade One Kauto Star Novice Chase at Kempton on Sunday, next in the list at 4-1.