Horse Racing Ireland has taken plenty of stick over many years, but you have to praise the bridge as you cross it and there is no doubt their recent handling of Irish racing, in the face of this cursed coronavirus, has been nothing short of exemplary.
History was made on Friday afternoon at Prestbury Park as the Willie Mullins-trained, Paul Townend-ridden and Marie and Joe Donnelly-owned Al Boum Photo joined the illustrious band of back-to-back winners of the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Willie Mullins waited a long time to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, having finally got his hands on the prize he craved most last year, he was again the toast of Prestbury Park today after 100-30 favourite Al Boum Photo provided another picture-perfect moment.
The Willie Mullins-trained Burning Victory ran out a fortuitous winner of the JCB Triumph Hurdle, the opening race of the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, after 5-2 favourite Goshen dramatically unseated rider Jamie Moore when miles clear at the final flight.
Willie Mullins is excited about the prospect of Al Boum Photo defending his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown three weeks tomorrow, and feels his charge has a “fantastic chance” of successfully doing so. Whilst he acknowledges history is against Joe Donnelly’s gelding, he doesn’t believe this year’s opposition is any tougher than the field he readily took care of in 2019.
By the time the starter calls the field to order for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, just before 3.30pm on Friday, March 13, we may well have downgraded that old conundrum — how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? — to a first-round four-marker.