Classy Al Boum Photo retains Gold Cup crown

Cheltenham (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Al Boum Photo became the first horse since Best Mate in 2004 to win successive Cheltenham Gold Cups on Friday.

The Irish raider, under an inspired ride by Paul Townend, held off Santini and Lostintranslation in a thrilling contest that went ahead despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Townend, on realising he had prevailed, looked to the sky, as the 29-year-old also did last year in honour of his mother, who died when he was just 15.

"I never thought I would experience a better feeling than I did last year," said Townend.

"However, I was wrong, this is even better!"

For winning trainer Willie Mullins it was astonishingly his fourth winner from as many races on the final day of the Festival.

Al Boum Photo though will always have a special place in the 63-year-old Irishman's heart as he delivered his first ever Gold Cup last year -- after six runners-up finishes prior to that.

"Fantastic. An absolutely unbelievable day," Mullins told ITV.

"Some said he was under pressure but Paul does his own thing.

"He probably rides better under a bit of pressure. Delighted for Paul. It is very hard to take over from someone like Ruby Walsh but Paul has stamped his authority.

"He is a rider riding with huge confidence."

Marie Donnelly, who co-owns the winner with her Irish bookmaking husband Joe, had also won the first race of the meeting on Tuesday.

"It is completely unbelievable. I cannot believe it," she told the BBC.

"Incredible. My husband said to Paul 'Make history' and he has.

"It is totally wonderful. A brilliant ride from Paul and he is obviously in tune with Al Boum Photo."

Townend had found himself battling for supremacy coming to the last with Lostintranslation and Santini.

Robbie Power on Lostintranslation landed upsides Townend, but Al Boum Photo found more to forge ahead, only for Santini to throw down a challenge.

Rachael Blackmore too came with a run on Monalee after the last and looked at one point to have a chance of becoming the first female jockey to win the 'blue riband' event of jump racing.

However Al Boum Photo simply had too much in his locker and repelled both, with Monalee having to settle for fourth.

"You get so close but someone has to be second," said Santini's jockey Nico de Boinville.

"However, due credit to Willie Mullins, he has some horse there.

"It was a great race and fiercely contested."

Lostintranslation's owners were delighted with their star's run.

It was bought in memory of co-owner Paul Taylor's son Charlie, who died aged just three when he crawled under his grandfather's car in 2015.

"I thought I would give them the Gold Cup when I was alongside Paul coming to the last," said Power.

"Sadly it was not to be, but he ran a cracker."