Cheltenham Festival: The Ultimate Guide - 2021-03-05


‘There is no reason to believe Al Boum Photo can’t win for a third time’


JOSH DOWN 1. Al Boum Photo 2. A Plus Tard 3. Champ Al Boum Photo has had the same preparation that has served him so well the last two seasons, and there is no reason to believe he can’t win for a third time. He already has most of the field covered in terms of collateral form, so it makes sense to look for dangers in those he has yet to beat. A Plus Tard finished strongly in a well-run race over 3m at Leopardstown at Christmas, so the extra distance should be within his compass. My gripe with Champ has been his jumping, but it was much better last time. SAM HARDY 1. Frodon 2. Al Boum Photo 3. Native River It is hard to believe that it has been 12 years since trainer Paul Nicholls last won the Gold Cup with Kauto Star, but I believe he has his best chance for many a year with King George winner Frodon. The son of Nickname has a fine record at Cheltenham, and has proved on many occasions that if he and Bryony Frost are in front three out they will be very hard to pass. Al Boum Photo will be the biggest threat to the selection in his attempt at a hat-trick in the showpiece. JACK HAYNES 1. Al Boum Photo 2. Champ 3. Frodon This is more competitive than the last two Gold Cups but it’s hard to see past Al Boum Photo, who can become the first horse since Best Mate to seal a hat-trick in the festival showpiece. The Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old once again had his sole Tramore prep run and recorded a Racing Post Rating in that race of 175. He will be tough to pass at the finish and has valuable race experience, which gives him a slight edge over Champ, who is a big danger. BEN HUTTON 1. Al Boum Photo 2. Magic Of Light 3. Royale Pagaille Al Boum Photo can emulate Arkle and Best Mate and land his third Gold Cup. He is following the same path as the last two years, with a New Year’s Day win at Tramore being his sole prep run, and he is by far the most solid option. If 2019 Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light turns up she could run a big race at huge odds, while Royale Pagaille is respected given this season’s dramatic improvement. TOM PARK 1. Champ 2. A Plus Tard 3. Santini Champ produced his best jumping performance over fences on his comeback run in the Game Spirit over two miles. He can be a bit fresh in his races but providing he switches off, he looks to have a speed advantage over his rivals here, and we know he stays well after that RSA win last season. A Plus Tard proved he also stays well after winning a red-hot Savills Chase in December – he too has a turn of foot. I can see Champ and A Plus Tard fighting out the finish with Santini staying on for third. MADDY PLAYLE 1. Al Boum Photo 2. Champ 3. Royale Pagaille He won’t be a betting proposition but it is difficult to take on dual winner Al Boum Photo given his record and the fact some of his opposition have fallen by the wayside. Champ only enhanced his chances when second in the Game Spirit, but is inexperienced, while Royale Pagaille is a player up in class.



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