It is well recognized that no horse has attained back-to-back successes in the Cheltenham Gold Cup since Best Mate in 2004. However, the Willie Mullins trained Al Boum Photo has more than a favourites chance of changing that statistic this year.
Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins has confirmed that the eight-year-old Al Boum Photo has had a trouble-free preparation and that it is all systems go for the defence of his crown on March 13th.
The wonderful son of Bucks Boum had just one run before winning the Cheltenham Festival highlight last year and has had an the same preparation this time, having once again won at Tramore on New Year’s Day in splendid style. His stable-mate, Acapella Bourgeois, has rubber-stamped that form since.
The Joe Donnelly-owned horse has not had a hard race this term and has been clearly kept fresh for the Gold Cup, which signifies a strong belief that he can win jump racing’s blue riband event again with all things considered.
Speaking at his media day, Willie Mullins insisted; “We will take him away someplace to school. We’ll take him anywhere we can get in, just for a day away instead, then a hard piece of work. I thought last year’s Gold Cup was very tough and I don’t think this year looks any tougher.” Mullins added; “I think Al Boum Photo has an excellent chance of winning it again”.
Despite defeat to Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup in May, Al Boum Photo was undoubtedly still suffering the effects of his Cheltenham Gold Cup success and did not jump as well as he can do. Delta Work looks the main threat on the basis of present day form, he has demonstrated his ability this season as he vanquished Kemboy and Presenting Percy in the Irish Gold Cup in February and is progressing. However, the betting markets are firmly siding with Al Boum Photo at the moment to take the spoils yet again.
Who will be riding Al Boum Photo?
Paul Townend was on board last year and everybody presumes the partnership to remain together bar a foreseen injury to Townend. It seems very unliekly that Townend would get off Al Boum Photo for love, nor money.
Mr Townend was effectively an able substitute to Ruby Walsh at Mullins’ yard for many years. He inherited the much sought after position of stable number one rider when Walsh retired last spring. Since then he has settled well into his new role.
Townend is a solid, team player and, if the horse is good enough Townend undoubtedly is good enough in the saddle.