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.
After a sluggish start to the Festival, Willie Mullins’ team found stride late on Wednesday, upped the pace with a double on Thursday, and when Monkfish edged out compatriots Latest Exhibition and Fury Road in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, it was a third on the day and a sixth in total for the Closutton maestro.
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.
When Paul Townend and Rachael Blackmore left the tarmac on the Dublin to Birmingham flight last night, both did so feeling very differently to how they felt taking off on the corresponding flight 12 months earlier.
Willie Mullins has had many great days in racing but, as he debriefed the media in a packed winner’s enclosure, it was hard to escape the sense that few meant quite as much to Ireland’s champion trainer as Faugheen’s epic victory in the Flogas Novice Chase on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival.
It’s been another stunning year for the Townends, with Paul reaching Gold Cup nirvana and Jody battling back bravely to the winner’s enclosure after overcoming a broken back. Though little sister won’t easily let big brother forget he missed her big moment in Galway
Darragh O’Keeffe may not yet be a familiar face to National Hunt fans but the teenager from Mallow is a rapidly rising star in the sport, and potentially on his way to setting records in what is just his second season riding over jumps.
The National Hunt season that has just finished was a very strange one. At times it felt like the season would never get going as we waited and waited for the skies to open. For us in racing, they never really did, but hopefully for the flat season ahead they won’t open now.
My ducks, as Nicky English might have said, are drowning. The first three days have gone depressingly badly. I’ve had one or two placed horses here and there but not a single winner, not even anything that ran sufficiently well to lose by a nose or a short head. I cannot hit the woodwork, never mind put the ball over the bar.
Forget about it. Erase it from your memory entirely. No need to ever mention it again. The monkey is off his back forever. After all the near-misses and the talk of the glaring omission from his CV, Willie Mullins has now won the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup. Al Boum Photo and Paul Townend ensured so with an authoritative display in the feature on the final day of the 2019 Festival.