Al Boum Photo & Paul Townend deliver Cheltenham Gold Cup for Willie Mullins

Seven-year-old French-bred Al Boum Photo (12/1) gave Willie Mullins a first victory in the £625,000 Grade 1 Bulmers Cheltenham Gold Cup following a thrilling two and a half-length victory in the three and a quarter-mile championship chase.

Ridden by 28-year-old Paul Townend, the son of Buck’s Boum took the lead at the second-last fence and galloped on relentlessly following the final fence to defeat the Tony Martin-trained Anibale Fly (22/1), the mount of Barry Geraghty. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Bristol De Mai (18/1) was a further three and three-quarter lengths behind in third.

Townend, who was winning his 10th Festival race, said of Friday’s victory:

“I got into a beautiful rhythm everywhere. I wasn’t where I wanted to be over the first two fences, but I got a couple of good jumps and, from there, everything just flowed for me. I had a bit of room and he jumped from fence to fence for me. He’s a real warrior and galloped right to the top of the line. There were horses struggling around me and it was just happening for me. I knew if I kept him upright that I had would have a good chance. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Al Boum Photo, who had run just once this season, winning a Listed race at Tramore over an extended two miles and five furlongs last January, finally gave Mullins the prize he has most coveted in racing, having saddled the runner-up in six editions of the Gold Cup:

“I’m delighted to win the Gold Cup and I’m also delighted that Paul has now won the race. It’s also brilliant for my owner [Marie Donnelly] who puts so much commitment into my yard.”

Mullins, who was recording his 65th victory at the Cheltenham Festival, making him the winning-most trainer in the history of the meeting, said:

“I was delighted for Paul. It’s fantastic to win the Gold Cup but, for Paul to ride it, that is the real result for me. Paul started off when he was 17 and has always been so natural and so good. He was riding as a claimer for me and won the Galway Hurdle for John Kiely. That really put him on the scene. He has just been unlucky that he is there alongside Ruby and, any time Ruby is free, Paul gets to ride the second horse. He is a fantastic rider and hopefully he might be champion jockey again this year.”

Reflecting on the race, Cork-born rider Townend commented:

“I wanted to ride Al Boum Photo as I just thought the ground would in his favour. The rain was coming and because it was going to be on the slow side, I thought that would be good for him as stamina is his forte. He had the form on his ground. It’s huge to win the Gold Cup. To come to Cheltenham and this event is what you dream of. Everyone wants to win a Gold Cup and to be as successful as Willie has been and to not win a Gold Cup was probably playing on his mind a bit. Willie is not going to panic and he is going to prepare the horses for the races they are going for. I’m very lucky that I was on his first Gold Cup winner.”

3:30pm Bulmers Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) 3m 2f 70y £625,000

1 Al Boum Photo (FR) 7 11 10 Willie Mullins IRE Marie Donnelly Paul Townend 12/1
2 Anibale Fly (FR) ts 9 11 10 Tony Martin IRE J P McManus Barry Geraghty 22/1
3 Bristol de Mai (FR) 8 11 10 Nigel Twiston-Davies Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Daryl Jacob 18/1
4 Native River (IRE) p 9 11 10 Colin Tizzard Brocade Racing Richard Johnson 6/1
5 Clan des Obeaux (FR) 7 11 10 Paul Nicholls Mr & Mrs Paul Barber, Ged Mason, Sir Alex Ferguson Harry Cobden 5/1
6 Elegant Escape (IRE) 7 11 10 Colin Tizzard J P Romans Tom O’Brien 20/1
7 Yala Enki (FR) 9 11 10 Venetia Williams Hills of Ledbury (Aga) Charlie Deutsch 100/1
8 Presenting Percy ts 8 11 10 Pat Kelly IRE Philip Reynolds Davy Russell 100/30 Fav
9 Shattered Love (IRE) ts 8 11 3 Gordon Elliott IRE Gigginstown House Stud Jack Kennedy 20/1

BD Definitly Red (IRE) 10 11 10 Brian Ellison Phil & Julie Martin Danny Cook 50/1
FELL Invitation Only (IRE) 8 11 10 Willie Mullins IRE Andrea & Graham Wylie Mr Patrick Mullins 33/1
PU Bellshill (IRE) 9 11 10 Willie Mullins IRE Andrea & Graham Wylie Ruby Walsh 9/1
PU Double Shuffle (IRE) h 9 11 10 Tom George Crossed Fingers Partnership Jonathan Burke 100/1
PU Might Bite (IRE) 10 11 10 Nicky Henderson The Knot Again Partnership Nico de Boinville 14/1
PU Thistlecrack 11 11 10 Colin Tizzard John and Heather Snook Tom Scudamore 12/1
UR Kemboy (FR) 7 11 10 Willie Mullins IRE Supreme Racing/Brett Graham/Ken Sharp David Mullins 8/1

Distances: 2½, 3¾, 3, 1¾, 15, 3½, 3½, 2¾
Time: 6m 39.06s

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