The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious race in National Hunt racing and those who are successful enter the history books forever. Dual-winner Al Boum Photo has the opportunity this season to match what very few have achieved before, by winning the 3m2f contest a third time.
Willie Mullins’ runner is 6-11 over fences, but it is his two Gold Cup wins which stand out on his record. His first came in 2019 in his opening attempt at the Blue Riband event of the Cheltenham Festival. 12 months later, he justified the favourite tag to prevail once again up the hill at Prestbury Park.
With new challengers entering the division every season, winning multiple Gold Cups is not easy. The last horse to bring up the hat-trick was Best Mate. He was successful in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Since then, the racing results show that the likes of Kauto Star, Denman, Kicking King and Bobs Worth have all failed to match that achievement.
Unlike some of the previous Gold Cup winners, Al Boum Photo is far from flashy. He does not win his races by wide margins. His biggest strength is his ability to dig in under pressure, which is why he performs so well at Cheltenham where stamina is really tested in the closing stages of the race.
Return Expected at Tramore
Al Boum Photo’s seasonal reappearance is likely to come once again on New Year’s Day at Tramore in the Savills New Year’s Chase. It has been his opening race in each of the last two campaigns and he has been victorious on both occasions.
The 2m5½f contest has been a good chance for the Irish horse to shake off the cobwebs and has been enough for him to prepare for the Gold Cup. Mullins prefers a light campaign for his chaser ahead of Cheltenham and that winning formula is unlikely to change this season.
At the age of eight, Al Boum Photo may not have even reached his peak yet over fences. We could see him competing in the Gold Cup for the next few years, and by the time he retires, he may well be a National Hunt great.
Challengers Include Those Close Behind Him In 2020
The biggest challengers to Al Boum Photo this year, according to the betting, are the two horses which were not far behind him back in March, Santini and Lostintranslation.
Santini had to settle for the runner-up spot in 2020 as he was just a neck behind the champion. Nicky Henderson’s runner is lightly raced over fences so he is expected to improve this season in what will be his second attempt at the race.
Lostintranslation is another horse who could be capable of much more in the campaign ahead. He improved after having a wind operation earlier this year. The former Grade One winner should be in contention in all the big 3m+ races this season.
It is Al Boum Photo who all the challengers have to beat at Cheltenham as it is unlikely that he is going to give up his crown without a fight.