The road to the winner’s enclosure
FRIDAY 3.05 WELLCHILD CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
Cheltenham Gold Cup big-race analysis, TO WIN one Gold Cup is tough, to win more than one takes a special horse. Al Boum Photo’s success in 2019 was, incredibly, the first time that Willie Mullins had won the race. Aged eight in 2020, Al Boum Photo again had a quiet campaign leading up to a crack at retaining his crown. Following the same pattern as in the previous season, he was seen only at Tramore in January when victorious over 2m5f against three rivals. He turned up to Cheltenham fresh, aiming to become the first horse to win back-to-back Cheltenham Gold Cups since Best Mate and only the seventh horse to have completed the feat. In what looked to be a competitive affair, the reigning champion was sent off the 100-30 favourite. As they came to the first, Paul Townend made sure his mount had plenty of room on the outside of the field in midfield. After a relatively uneventful first half of the race, with few mistakes, the contest sparked into life when the favourite hit the 13th fence, setting him back a length or so. As the pace increased, errors started to occur, with the front-running Bristol De Mai found wanting, leaving Monalee to lead the way. At the sixth from home, Al Boum Photo put in a brilliant leap to get within a length of the leader, with Santini and Monalee on his inside. As the latter faded it was left to Santini and Al Boum Photo to take up the running, but with only a handkerchief covering a number of horses. Turning for home, Al Boum Photo was half a length ahead of Santini and Lostintranslation, and at the final fence the latter jumped side by side with the reigning champion, who was just ahead on landing. On the run-in Al Boum Photo gained a length lead, although the battling Santini roared up the hill to get within a neck of the Donnelly family-owned conquering hero.