The Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo raced into the history books today (Friday, 13 March), becoming the first back-to-back winner of the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup since Best Mate (in 2002, 2003 and 2004) at the Cheltenham Festival.
Under Paul Townend, Al Boum Photo produced a scintillating leap at the final fence and denied the gallant Nicky Henderson-trained Santini by a neck in the 3m2½f contest.
The eight-year-old son of Buck’s Boum, who is owned by Joe and Marie Donnelly, also became the first horse since Kauto Star (2007/2009) to win the race twice. He enjoyed the same preparation for this year’s race as 2019 — having won his only other start this season in the Grade Three Savills Chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
“We’re delighted to win the race for the second year running with Al Boum Photo,” said Willie. “We just decided not to break winning formula and just take the same preparation as he did last year. I thought this year’s Gold Cup wasn’t anything like last year’s. I was just thinking if he had a clear round and a bit of luck then it was all to play for.”
The winning jockey was claiming the feature race for the second year running aboard Al Boum Photo, who was favourite for this year’s renewal.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I’d want a boot in the rear if I had been in front that early and got beat by Santini. I thought that I would never feel anything like the feeling I had here last year, but I think this is even better — it’s unreal. It’s a credit to Willie because the man is a genius.
“I didn’t have to fight for it. A couple of good jumps got it for me there, and I think that was very important. Al Boum Photo has everything — guts as much as everything else. This is huge — this is the main stage. Before this I was having a brilliant day, but this is the icing on the cake.”
Willie Mullins enjoyed a special day at the Cotswolds track, with the Gold Cup being his fourth winner in succession. He was triumphant with Burning Victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Saint Roi in the Randox Health County Hurdle and Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Al Boum Photo’s success allowed Mullins to complete a 2,196/1 four-timer.
A shock win
There was a surprise 66/1 victory in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase courtesy of the Eugene O’Sullivan-trained It Came To Pass. However, it came as no surprise to the Irish handler.
He knew what it takes to win the “hunters’ Gold Cup” because 29 years ago he prepared his family’s home-bred, Lovely Citizen, to score under his brother, William. Continuing with the family theme, Eugene legged his daughter, Maxine, into the saddle and she steered the ten-year-old gelding to an easy success.
“We bought this horse last year with a view to running him in this race, but we only picked him up after Christmas and couldn’t get him fit in time,” said Eugene. “Maxine has done an awful lot of work on him at home, and she gave him a savage ride today. All the big guns were queuing up behind but Maxine knew what she had, she rode him accordingly and I’m very proud of her.”
Don’t miss our full report from the Cheltenham Festival in the 19 March issue of Horse & Hound.
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