Al Boum Photo joined a select club when retaining his Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup today.
No horse had retained the Gold Cup since Best Mate completed his famous hat-trick in 2004 but Al Boum Photo proved up to the task to give Willie Mullins, who waited so long to emulate his legendary father Paddy, a remarkable four-timer on the day.
The 100-30 favourite had to dig deep to prevail as the Nicky Henderson-trained Santini, Colin Tizzard’s Lostintranslation, and Henry De Bromhead’s Monalee threw down determined challenges up the famous hill but immortality doesn’t come easily and, ultimately, Paul Townend’s mount had his head in front where it matters.
“It's a fantastic, an absolutely unbelievable day,” Mullins said. “(I'm) delighted for Paul, it's not easy to take over from someone like Ruby Walsh, but Paul's gone and stamped his authority this season in Ireland riding for our yard, so I'm really delighted for him.”
Like last year, Al Boum Photo arrived at Cheltenham on the back of a sole run this season, the type of light campaign Henrietta Knight famously gave Best Mate.
“We just decided to follow what happened last year, why change it if it works? Thankfully it paid off. I think it was only history against him today. I didn't think the race was as tough as last year, Paul was brave on him and the whole thing came together. It's Paul's day today.”
Townend, who had his third winner on the day to clinch the top jockey prize, said: “I thought I'd never feel anything like the feeling I had here last year, (but) I think this is even better. It's all about this, it's all about this lad. It's a credit to Willie. To come here with one run (this season), the man's a genius.”
Few would argue with that assessment.