Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Al Boum Photo oozed class in making a winning reappearance in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore.
Claiming the race for the second successive year, Willie Mullins’ charge had drawn a big crowd to the track.
Only four went to post, including two stablemates in Acapella Bourgeois and Voix Du Reve, with Gordon Elliott’s Shattered Love preventing a Mullins monopoly.
Rachael Blackmore set the pace on Acapella Bourgeois with Paul Townend forced three wide for much of the race as Shattered Love split the Mullins pair.
With five fences to jump, Townend sent Al Boum Photo into the lead and the race was as good as over.
A big leap at the next gained him a couple of lengths and while Acapella Bourgois briefly looked a threat, Al Boum Photo (4-7 favourite) pulled six lengths clear without being asked much of a question.
Betfair trimmed the winner to 9-2 from 6-1 for the defence of his Cheltenham crown.
“He jumped well and Paul was positive on him. He got a good blow into him. I was very happy and couldn’t be more happy with the way the day worked out,” said Mullins.
“I’m leaning towards going straight to the Gold Cup with him from here again. When a plan works, we might leave it at that. I’ll have a word with Mr and Mrs Donnelly (owners) and see what they want to do.
“Acapella Bourgeois ran fantastic, but I was disappointed with Voix Du Reve. He appeared twice in the race and then dropped out, so we need to do more work with him.
“It’s a bumper crowd here and I’m sure the weather helped. It’s great for the track to have a sponsor like Savills and we are delighted to have them.”
Townend added: “It’s brilliant to have him back and he couldn’t have done it any better. I wanted to keep it as simple as I could, and I was able to jump and get any position I wanted.
“He was giving away a fair chunk of weight, but I suppose he was entitled to do what he did.
“He was good. He’s not always as clever as that, but I got into a good rhythm on him early and hopefully he can go on to bigger and better things again this year.
“It worked last year, and hopefully it will work this year. He has won a Gold Cup and doesn’t owe anyone anything.”