Tiger Roll’s bid to win three consecutive editions of the Grand National has captivated horse racing fanatics and even crossed over into the mainstream at times. Now, it seems that the Cheltenham Festival could serve up a feat equally as extraordinary.
On Friday, March 19, Al Boum Photo will attempt to win a third consecutive edition of the Cheltenham Gold Cup – a feat so rare it would instantly secure the horse’s place in racing folklore. The outstanding Best Mate did it at the turn of the new millennium, but then you have to go back to the 1960s and the incomparable Arkle to find the last ‘three-peater’ in the flagship race.
Willie Mullins is very happy with his two-time Gold Cup winner ahead of the Cheltenham Festival next month.
— Timeform (@Timeform) February 22, 2021
Previous successes ensure the nine-year-old is the favorite in the Cheltenham odds from Paddy Power for the Gold Cup. Fans of history being made will note with relish that Willie Mullins, the horse’s trainer, has reported that his prized asset is in fine fettle ahead of his hat-trick bid.
As is customary at this time of year, the leading training yards allow a glimpse into their operation with a stable tour, and in his, Mullins was bullish about Al Boum Photo’s chances of success.
“We think he is in a good position,” the Irishman said. “Any time Paul (Townend, the horse’s normal jockey) has ridden him in his work he’s been happy, and I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen as well. We don’t have any negatives at this point.”
Very often a trainer will play down the chances of their stars ahead of a trip to the four-day meeting, and so it was very interesting to hear that Mullins is talking up Al Boum Photo’s hopes for a successful day of destiny. Of course, there will be those keen to compete with Mullins’ charge.
Champ Hopes to Prove It’s All in the Name
Naturally, given that this is one of the most prestigious thoroughbred races on the planet, the Gold Cup is an incredibly competitive renewal. The odds for the 2021 edition have been revealed, and there are some runners at the head of the market that catch the eye – so much so that consensus among the Cheltenham tips providers is difficult to find. Royale Pagaille has taken nicely to chasing, while A Plus Tard – a former Festival winner in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase – showed his class in holding off Kemboy to win the Savills Chase.
Champ was on “springs” on his return and is the biggest threat to Al Boum Photo winning a third Gold Cup, says @BarryJGeraghty 👇
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 23, 2021
ut it’s Nicky Henderson, a perennial Cheltenham favorite, and his horse Champ that most captures the imagination. The nine-year-old is consistently excellent – only finishing lower than second in one of these fourteen outings – and has shown plenty of late to whet the appetite of his experienced handler. Speaking after his last outing at Newbury in February, Henderson commented on his charge’s ‘deadly’ jumping, and claimed that the run-out ‘will have done him the world of good.’
No less a judge than Barry Geraghty has also claimed that Champ is the biggest threat to Al Boum Photo’s hopes for a momentous Gold Cup hat-trick, and the beauty of it all is that we can watch the action unfold in front of our very eyes on March 19.