Al Boum Photo wins Willie Mullins his first Cheltenham Gold Cup

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Mar 21, 2018
Al Boum Photo won a drama-filled Cheltenham Gold Cup, finally delivering the famous trophy into the hands of Willie Mullins, who had trained the runner-up six times and seemed fated never to win the race. If he had any such fear, it must have been reinforced by events on the first circuit, when three of his four runners exited the race.

Kemboy unseated his jockey at the very first fence, while Bellshill was pulled up about a mile later after jumping errors. Invitation Only took a nasty fall, bringing down Definitly Red and leaving Mullins with only Al Boum Photo.

One circuit later, the Irishman’s hoodoo was at an end as Paul Townend urged the young horse up the famous hill to a comfortable win. Anibale Fly and Bristol De Mai plugged on gamely to fill the places in an attritional contest.

“It’s good to get it,” said Mullins. “I didn’t think I was going to have a good Cheltenham this year, the way it was going for me.”

The winning jockey is Paul Townend, for whom this is a kind of redemption after his blunder on Al Boum Photo at Punchestown last year, steering the horse around the final fence with a Grade One victory in his grasp. “I can’t believe it,” the jockey said. “I want to thank the owners and Willie for sticking by me so much. I’m privileged to be riding for Willie.”

Native River, last year’s winner, was hard at work from a long way out and was never able to impose himself on the race as he had done 12 months ago. Might Bite, who chased him home that day, kept him company for a long way but both were swamped by challengers off the home turn. Those included the King George winner, Clan Des Obeaux, though he had little left to offer after the second-last.

Presenting Percy was sent off favourite but never got into the argument in his first steeplechase for a year. Thistlecrack also struggled to keep tabs on the field and was beaten by the top of the hill.