Thursday, April 15, 2021
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Al Boum Photo – the horse trying to make Cheltenham Gold Cup history

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The habitual bridesmaid at the Festival’s showcase race, six times his runners had finished runner-up, leaving Mullins, who had won pretty much everything else over Cheltenham’s fences and beyond, left scratching his head.

And then came Al Boum Photo, a winner first in 2019, again last year and now favourite to win a first hat-trick since Best Mate in 2004.

And yet the nine-year-old is building up to his arrival on British soil with far less fanfare than is deserving. Part of that is down to the nature of this year’s Festival. For one, the usual hoards will not be crossing the Irish Sea for the behind-closed-doors event.

In addition, the pre-Festival headlines have been rather more about the runners of Mullins’ rival Gordon Elliott after the fall-out from his photo atop a dead horse.

Disregarding both aspects, the fanfare has never been all that big for Al Boum Photo, in part as he is generally hidden away from the wider public for much of the year.

As ITV Racing presenter Ed Chamberlin put it: “People don’t see him much, and that’s not a criticism of Willie Mullins.Whatever he’s doing with the horse is working so why change it? But there’s nothing flamboyant about him.”

Al Boum Photo can only beat the horses put in front of him and, on paper at least, this year’s Gold Cup does not instantly appear like a line-up for the ages.

AFP via Getty Images

There could and should be more fanfare around the horse, but that is partly the doing of owners Joe Donnelly and his wife Marie.

Donnelly used to be a renowned Irish bookmaker before selling up the business to relocate to Paris and focus on his other business interests: property and fine art, which includes ownership of works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse among others.

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