Willie Mullins’ Al Boum Photo took the 2019 renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and in 2020, the chaser became the first consecutive winner of the race since Best MateVideo Loading
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“What do I get?” – Queen Elizabeth II wins £16 at the Epsom Derby (1991)
Willie Mullins has retired the *very special” horse who finally gave him a Cheltenham Gold Cup win.
The Irish trainer had four second places on the trot alabama horse racing and had to wait another three years before he won the Festival’s big race with Al Boum Photo. Paul Townend’s mount stayed on resolutely to lift the prize in 2019 and repeated the result in game fashion a year later.
Mullins thought he was never going to win the Gold Cup, after Sir Des Champs, On His Own and Djakadam (twice), finished runner-up between 2013 and 2016.
“I was honoured to be involved with a horse like him and the first time he won the Gold Cup is up there as one of the best days I have ever had in racing,” Mullins told the Racing Post.
The 10-year-old won just over £1million in prize money from 23 career starts.Paul Townend celebrates on Al Boum Photo after winning the 2020 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup (
Bought from France, he also had his final racecourse appearance there, when he was pulled up in last month’s Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris.
Away from Cheltenham, Al Boum Photo enjoyed annual trips to Tramore’s New Year’s Day meeting, where he landed the last four renewals of the Savills Chase. Owned by Joe and Marie Donnelly, the son of Buck’s Boum finished third when bidding to emulate Best Mate in the 2021 Gold Cup.
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He had another attempt at winning it three times, when he was sixth behind Rachael Blackmore’s horse A Plus Tard in March.
Al Boum Photo will now be retrained to go eventing, along with one of the owners’ other horses, Melon. He finished runner-up four times at the Cheltenham Festival, including in two Champion Hurdles. Overall he scooped connections just short of £450,000 and he was last seen chasing home stablemate Easy Game at Killarney in May.
York Preview: “Superstar” Al Simmo Bids To Strike Again
Racing returns to the Knavesmire on Friday, live on Racing TV
Friday brings a big afternoon for trainer Steph Hollinshead as two of her stable’s leading lights step out at York Racecourse.
Al Simmo and Royal Musketeer, who both won on their respective last starts, will line up in competitive handicaps.
The former, a five-year-old mare, contests the British EBF Supporting Racing With Pride Fillies’ Handicap (3pm), after winning at Ripon on May 15.
As for Royal Musketeer, he will look to build on a fine victory at Newmarket when he runs in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Handicap (4.05pm).
Hollinshead, who trains a string of 24 in Staffordshire, said: “I think both horses go there with a ‘live’ chance. It’s amazing to have a runner, let alone be going there with a squeak. I’m feeling nervous already!”
She has done a superb job masterminding the rise of Al Simmo, who has chalked up five wins since last April and risen from an official rating of 57 to 84. Once again Al Simmo will be partnered by jockey Clifford Lee as she moves up into a Class 2 handicap for the first time.
Hollinshead said: “She’s been a bit of superstar, to be honest. She seems to keep improving and is in a really good place. She is pretty straightforward to train and we know her very well now, so we can cater to her. She’s a stable star – we’re chuffed to bits with her. You become quite fond of them when they do that for you, year-in, year-out.
“She is stepping up in grade and has really climbed up the weights. Clifford rides her really well and knows her very well, so I’m hoping for a good run. I think she’s fine on good (ground). In an ideal world, we could just do with no more rain and a bit of a strong breeze to just dry it out slightly, if I was to be really fussy! I do think she likes it quite quick.”
Hollinshead’s other representative, Royal Musketeer, also has valid claims as the four-year-old bids to build on his win last time out. Upper Longdon-based Hollinshead said: “We gelded him, he had winter in the field and he’s matured mentally. He’s really come forward for being gelded and I think there could be a little bit more in the tank. He’s a lovely big horse and I think he might well improve. I do think he’ll stay a mile at some point, so there might well be a bit more improvement in him in that respect.”
Zim Baby will carry the Racing With Pride Silks on Friday (Photo: York racecourse)
York Racecourse’s support of inclusion and diversity is underlined with the British EBF Supporting Racing With Pride Fillies’ Handicap. One of Al Simmo’s rivals will be Zim Baby, declared to run in the unique rainbow colours allocated to Racing With Pride, a community established to promote LGBT+ participation within the sport.
The silks are designed to increase visibility of LGBT+ support within racing and on racecourses and are the creation of partners Katie Doyle and Ellen Lincoln, with the winning design brought to life by racing silks supplier, Allertons.
Zim Baby’s trainer Mick Appleby, a prominent member of the LGBT+ community in the sport, said: “It’s good that racing is welcoming everybody into the sport, recognising different genders and orientations – welcoming people into racing with open arms.
“I’d like to think Zim Baby run a good race. It would be a bonus if she can win. We’ve just freshened her up, so she’s in good order and hopefully she’ll run a decent race.”
Chairman of Racing With Pride, David Letts, said: “Racing With Pride is delighted to partner again with the British EBF and York Racecourse to celebrate Pride month. This visible activation is an important signal of support for the LGBTQ+ community, both within racing and beyond, and publicises the year-round commitment from these organisations to our work. It is an exciting bonus to have the Racing With Pride silks in use on the day and huge thanks go to Zim Baby’s connections for their support.”
William Derby, Chief Executive of York Racecourse, commented: “We are very grateful for the British European Breeders’ Fund’s support in enabling this special celebration of the nationwide Pride Month within racing and at York. We are delighted to be an active and enthusiastic supporter of Racing With Pride and to welcome all members of our community to York for everyone to enjoy. We wish Zim Baby and Jim Crowley, Mick Appleby, Fosnic Racing and everyone at Racing With Pride the very best of luck in the race.”
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Mullins Pays Tribute To ‘special’ Al Boum Photo As Dual Gold Cup Hero Is Retired
Al Boum Photo and Melon: popular Willie Mullins-trained stars were retired on Tuesday
Willie Mullins paid a fitting tribute to Al Boum Photo for giving him “one of the best days of his entire career” after the dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner was retired on Tuesday, while Paul Townend has spoken of the rollercoaster of emotions he experienced with the hugely successful staying chaser.
Al Boum Photo’s racing days may be over, but he is set to embark on a new career as an eventer.
Mullins, the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history, had never won the Gold Cup until Al Boum Photo came along but all that changed in 2019 when he powered to a two-and-a-half-length victory over Anibale Fly in the hands of Townend.
The following year, he became the first back-to-back winner of the race since Best Mate in 2003 when bravely fending off the late surge of Santini, and he also finished third in the race in 2021.
Speaking to the Racing Post, Mullins said: “After years and years of trying, Al Boum Photo gave me my first Gold Cup. I thought it was never going to happen and then he comes along and does it twice! That is a fantastic achievement for any horse. He was very, very special.
“I was honoured to be involved with a horse like him and the first time he won the Gold Cup is up there as one of the best days I have ever had in racing. To win a Gold Cup is the pinnacle of any trainer’s career.”
The trainer added: “He was a tremendous servant but it was only really in the second half of his career that he began to bloom. He promised a bit in his early days but when we sent him over fences, he really took off and never looked back.
“I suppose you could say we tried to mind him and we campaigned him in as shrewd a way as we could. He didn’t run too often but he has two Gold Cups so it paid off. He was a very sound horse and he retires fit and well.
“I wish him all the best in his new eventing career. I’m delighted he retired in one piece and he is so fit and well in himself that I would say he has plenty more years riding in him.”
Townend was on board for both of Al Boum Photo’s Gold Cup wins and he was also in the saddle for one of the most bizarre incidents ever witnessed on an Irish racecourse at Punchestown in 2018 when the pair bypassed the final fence of the Growise Champion Novice Chase in error when holding what looked a race-winning lead.
Paul Townend aboard Al Boum Photo when winning the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Michael Steele (Getty Images)
Townend said: “I went through a rollercoaster of emotions with him. The two days he won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham were highs that I never thought I would ever experience. They were absolutely magic.
“There are just so many stories with this horse and me. We obviously won the two Gold Cups together, but I was on his back when Ruby [Walsh] turned around to me on Kemboy and told me he was retiring and then there was the day at Punchestown too [when they ran out at the final fence]. There are so many stories and so many emotions experienced. I’ll never forget him.”
When asked what made Al Boum Photo so good, Townend replied: “He must have had a huge engine because he was never a natural or flamboyant jumper but he still managed to win two Gold Cups. That takes some doing.
“His whole demeanour was fantastic. You’d see other horses prancing around the yard but he never caused any fuss and just kept himself to himself. He was a pleasure to have anything to do with and I owe so much to Joe and Marie Donnelly for sticking by me on him.”
Watch: Al Boum Photo wins 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup
While Al Boum Photo will be forever remembered as a dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, he will be fondly remembered in County Waterford too as he made the Savills Chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day his own in recent years, winning the last four runnings of the race between 2019 and 2022.
Al Boum Photo will join Louise Duffy, who has rehomed Grade 1 winners Assessed and Arvika Ligeonniere, both of whom have evented at an international level and won the George Mernagh Trophy for ex-racehorses at Tattersalls.
Duffy, who is based in County Meath, has for nearly 20 years been running a yard that specialises in the retraining of racehorses for secondary careers in other disciplines such as eventing and dressage.
Melon, a four-time runner-up at the Cheltenham Festival which included finishing second in the 2018 and 2019 Champion Hurdles, was also retired on Tuesday and will now embark on a team chasing and hunting career with Sophie Candy.
Mullins said: “He was a very good and sound horse. We campaigned him at the top table throughout his whole career and that is why he probably didn’t win as many races as he could.
“Still, to be runner-up at four Cheltenham Festivals is a fantastic achievement in its own right.”