Al Boum Photo landed back-to-back renewals of the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup with a gutsy display on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival that saw Irish trainers win six of the seven races and end the festival with a tally of 17 winners.
On an afternoon dominated by his trainer Willie Mullins, the Mrs Marie Donnelly-owned eight-year-old battled well under Paul Townend to see off Santini by a neck, with the Rachael Blackmore-ridden Monalee a close fourth for trainer Henry De Bromhead.
Mullins’ haul of four Friday winners saw him end the week with a total of seven, just enough to see him crowned as the leading trainer at the festival for the seventh time ahead of Gordon Elliott who also finished with seven winners but lost out on count back.
Mullins becomes the winning-most trainer at the festival with 72 winners in all. Five winners saw Townend home as the leading jockey for the first time.
A good start
The champion trainer won the first four races on the final day, beginning with the Townend-ridden Burning Victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle. Saint Roi won the Randox Health County Hurdle with Barry Geraghty in the saddle while Monkfish and Townend again won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle before Al Boum Photo’s memorable victory.
It Came To Pass bridged a 29-year gap for Lombardstown, County Cork trainer Eugene O’Sullivan when running away with the St James’ Place Foxhunter Chase.
O’Sullivan won the race in 1991 with Lovely Citizen, ridden by his brother William and owned and bred by his late father Eoin and this time his daughter Maxine was in the saddle as the 66/1 chance beat the Mullins-trained Billaway by all of ten lengths. Elliott was also a final day winner with Chosen Mate and Davy Russell in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.
Henry De Bromhead
An opening day brace brought Henry De Bromhead’s festival total to nine. The County Waterford trainer gained the first Irish success of the meeting with Put The Kettle On, ridden by Aidan Coleman for owners, the One For Luck Racing Syndicate.
In the more familiar colours of Kenny Alexander, the remarkable Honeysuckle gained her fourth Grade 1 win and maintained an unbeaten record that now stretches to eight races when getting better of Benie Des Dieux in a thrilling Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle. Rachael Blackmore was once again in the saddle and it was a third Cheltenham winner for the Killenaule jockey.
Gordon Elliott closed out the opening day when winning the National Hunt Chase with Ravenhill. Owned by the Try Ravenhill Syndicate, it was a tenth winner at the festival and a third win in the National Hunt Chase for Jamie Codd following on from Le Breuil in 2019 and Elliott’s Cause Of Causes in 2015.
Elliott got the second day off to the best possible start with Envoi Allen and Davy Russell scoring a stunning success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle to maintain his own unbeaten record. Mark Walsh was in the saddle as Aramax followed up for Elliott in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle with Willie Mullins and Paul Townend netting their first winner of the week in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper with Ferny Hollow, a tenth win in the race for the champion trainer.
Elliott and Mullins shared five winners on Thursday, the pair dominating the opening Marsh Novices’ Chase. Elliott won with Samcro and Davy Russell edging out Mullins’ Melon and Faugheen and he also took the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle with the Barry Geraghty-ridden Sire Du Berlais before Wexford’s Rob James recorded his first Cheltenham festival winner on Milan Native in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase to round off an Elliott day three treble.
Mullins recorded two winners on Thursday when taking the Ryanair Chase with the Paul Townend-ridden Min and the Daylesford Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle with Concertista, second in the same race last year but recording a 12-length win under Daryl Jacob this time.
Brian Kavanagh, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “It was another tremendous week for Irish trainers, owners and jockeys at the Cheltenham Festival with the tally of 17 winners. Congratulations again to Willie Mullins, Paul Townend and Joe and Marie Donnelly on their repeat success with Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup and to Willie and Paul who ended the week as the leading trainer and jockey respectively.”