On Friday March 13, Al Boum Photo became the first horse since Best Mate in 2003 to successfully win two consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups. Accompanying the eight-year-old on his successful trip over the Irish Sea to take on the world's best chasers was jockey Paul Townend while trainer Willie Mullins was the mastermind behind the repeat. It was a race to rank with the best that Prestbury Parek can offer, to thrill racing fans at every level of the sport.
And whilst Gloucestershire's greatest prize has headed back across the Irish Sea once again, we can all celebrate a great horse immaterial of where he came from.
This winning trio had all been involved in 2019 too, so will they be there again in 2021? And just how far can this impressive horse go?
After the race, Mullins stated his desire to go one better and claim a third successive Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021. Best Mate progressed from the double to achieve this in 2004 and that’s an obvious target for Al Boum Photo to emulate.
With just under 12 months to go until the race on March 19th, 2021, markets have already been opened and a look at the horse racing betting odds for the Gold Cup shows the defending champion at the head of the market. Al Boum Photo is quoted at a figure of 5/1 with bet365 and that leaves a narrow gap to second favourite Santini at 7/1.
That’s a strong endorsement from the bookmakers and many horse racing pundits tend to agree but 12 months is a long time in horse racing. Al Boum Photo will currently be enjoying an extended rest but what challenges are in store before that Gold Cup defence?
In his advancing years, Al Boum Photo has been used sparingly by Willie Mullins and in a truncated horse racing year, we should see a similar pattern across the next few months. In the 2018/19 season, Mullins’ runner competed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Savills Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup and another quiet approach to that 2021 defence could be the way forward.
Al Boum Photo won two of those races and was second only to Kemboy at Punchestown. It’s been an illustrious career so far for the French-bred Gelding bought from Festival winning trainer Emanuel Clayeux, but will history continue to be made at the next Cheltenham Festival?
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is such a major feat of endurance that it’s rare to see multiple winners in the modern day, accentuated by the fact that the modern day chaser is more fragile than previously. That’s why the likes of Best Mate have gone down in horse racing history and Al Boum Photo is a worthy addition to the list of greatest Cheltenham achievements. No modern day chaser has been heavily campaigned in a successful defence of his title.
Any horse lining up for the Festival in future years has an even bigger landmark to aim for. The great Golden Miller won five straight Gold Cups from 1932 to 1936 and that record is unlikely to ever be beaten given the intense competition for the race nowadays.
There are reasons, however, to hope that Al Boum Photo can achieve the hattrick when he lines up at the Cheltenham Festival in 2021. As we’ve seen, Willie Mullins’ horse is by no means invincible but he ran an impressive race at the Gold Cup this year and, in a testing field, just held on to beat Santini by a neck. Those two rivals head the market for next year’s race but will anyone prevent Al Boum Photo from landing three in a row?
Answers came there none... yet.
STOP PRESS: Racing abandoned due to Virus concerns
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