Boum Time Again For Mullins In Gold Cup

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Marie Donnelly leads in her dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo | Racing Post

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CHELTENHAM, UK—With a slightly surreal sense of the final day of the Cheltenham Festival providing a last hurrah for racing as know it, at least for now, Al Boum Photo (Fr) (Buck's Boum {Fr}) returned to the scene of his greatest triumph to land back-to-back runnings of the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He's not seen often, but when the sleek 8-year-old gelding appears at the races he seldom disappoints and his assured victory sealed a sensational day for Willie Mullins, who saddled the first four winners of the week's finale. Despite his prowess at Cheltenham, where is the most successful trainer of all time at the Festival, Mullins only took home its most coveted prize for the first time last year when Al Boum Photo led from the second-last fence for a comfortable win. Twelve months later, the margins were a little tighter but the result remained the same despite a strong late rally from Santini (GB) (Milan {GB}), who went down by just a neck. Less than two lengths separated the first four home, with Lostintranslation (Ire) (Flemensfirth) taking third from Monalee (Ire) (Milan {GB}).

Some of the great names in the sport's history are found on the list of previous multiple winners of the Gold Cup: Golden Miller (Ire), Arkle (Ire) and Best Mate (Ire) are all commemorated in bronze around the headquarters of jump racing and, still only a relative youngster, Al Boum Photo may yet extend his record in the race reserved for the elite of the staying chase division.

He has become, however, something of a rare treat. Having arrived in Ireland from France just over three years ago, Al Boum Photo has run 15 times for eight wins, but had made only one start this season prior to Friday, at Tramore on New Year's Day, echoing his preparation for last year's Gold Cup.

“Don't break a winning formula when it works and it has paid off thankfully,” said a delighted Mullins. “I thought this year's Gold Cup wasn't anything like last year's. I was just thinking if he had a clear round and a bit of luck then it was all to play for.

“I was happy throughout and Paul [Townend] was brave on him at the last. Paul's plan came together and I'm delighted for him as well as [owners] Marie and Joe Donnelly.”

For the Donnellys, it was the second win of the week after their Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin (Ire) (Sholokhov {Ire}) landed the opening race of the meeting, the G1 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and Melon (GB) (Medicean {GB}) was beaten just a nose in the G1 Marsh Novices' Chase. Meanwhile Paul Townend's final-day treble took him to the head of the jockeys' list with five wins throughout the four days.

He said, “It's amazing. I'd want some boot in the rear end if I had been in front that early and got beat by Santini. I thought that I would never feel anything like the feeling I had here last year, but I think this is even better. It's unreal. It's a credit to Willie, to go to Tramore two years in a row and come here with one run. The man is a genius.”

Townend continued, “I just went out with the plan of getting into a rhythm like last year. We missed a few fences but he always found his feet, and it just happened again at the top of the hill, he was jumping a bit better and I ended up in front a bit sooner than I wanted, but I was able to hang on there and produce him when I needed him at the last. He's a tough animal.

“This is huge. This is the main stage. Before this I was having a brilliant day, but this is the icing on the cake. The Gold Cup is the Gold Cup, and sure, we'll wait 12 months for another one.”

Fab Four
The Gold Cup victory meant that Mullins won the first four races of the day but he was gentlemanly in his reluctance to celebrate the first when Burning Victory (Fr) (Nathaniel {Ire}) benefited from a last-flight blunder in the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle by favourite Goshen (Fr) (Authorized {Ire}), who appeared to have the race at his mercy when unseating Jamie Moore.

Nathaniel may be best known as the sire of the incomparable Enable (GB) but it has been quite a week for his daughters at Cheltenham. On Thursday, the Wertheimer-bred Concertista (Fr) stormed to a 12-length victory in the G2 Daylesford Mares' Novices' Hurdle, and a little less than 24 hours later it was the turn of Burning Victory, who was also a winner on the Flat in her native France before turning to hurdling. The 4-year-old was bred by Nicolas and Marc de Chambure at Haras d'Etreham, where her dam M'Oubliez Pas (El Corredor) still resides.

“It's such a great feeling to breed a Grade 1 winner at the Festival,” said Nicolas de Chambure, who noted that the 13-year-old mare, a six-furlong winner and listed-placed at two during her racing days, has two young fillies on the way through—a 2-year-old by Scissor Kick (Aus) and a yearling by Wootton Bassett (GB).

In the winner's enclosure, Mullins was quick to praise Goshen's trainer and jockey Gary and Jamie Moore, the father and brother of leading Flat jockey Ryan Moore. He said, “I feel like a bit of an imposter in here. I feel very sorry for Jamie and Gary. It was their one shot of the meeting and they had all the work done. Jamie asked all the right questions coming to the last, asked him to take off and the horse just didn't take off for him. These things happen unfortunately. I'm delighted to have a winner for Greg and Audrey Turley, but I feel hugely for Gary and Jamie, a father and son team.”

He added of Burning Victory, “She has a huge engine, like yesterday's filly Concertista she's by Nathaniel and is a lovely big filly, but she needs to brush up her jumping. Hopefully she'll do that.”

With Saint Roi (Fr) (Coastal Path {GB}) continuing JP McManus's good week in the G3 Randox Health County Hurdle and Monkfish (Ire) (Stowaway {Ire}) winning the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle for Rich and Susannah Ricci, Mullins finished level with his great rival Gordon Elliott on seven winners at the meeting.

Elliott's seventh came with the triumph of Chosen Mate (Ire) (Well Chosen {Ire}) in the G3 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual, but some respite from the Irish onslaught came in the final race of the Festival, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle.

Owning one of the best names in the weighing-room, Rex Dingle rode the well-named Indefatigable (Ire) (Schiaparelli {Ger}) to a first Cheltenham win for himself, trainer Paul Webber and the mare's sire, who stands just a few miles from the course at Overbury Stud.

Schiaparelli wasn't the only son of Monsun (Ger) to register a breakthrough at the Festival. Gentlewave (Ire) was represented by the Glenfarclas Chase winner Easysland (Fr), while Simply The Betts (Ire), a son of Arcadio (Ger), won the G3 Brown Advisory & Merribelle Stable Plate, and Aramax (Ger) provided a first win at the meeting for Maxios (GB), who now stands in Ireland at Castle Hyde Stud.

Bred in Germany before Maxios's move, Aramax is a product of the successful Gestut Rottgen operation and it was a particularly good week for his stakes-placed dam Aramina (Ger) (In The Wings {GB}) as her 7-year-old son by Monsun, Aramon (Ger), was second in Friday's G3 County Hurdle.

With a long, bleak shadow now cast over sporting events around a world in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, the Cheltenham Festival will almost certainly be the last major race meeting to be staged in front of a crowd for a while. And what a crowd it was. Almost 69,000 people attended Gold Cup day, bringing the week's attendance to 251,684. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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