It’s all systems go for Al Boum Photo with a third Gold Cup in his sights after securing a third consecutive Savills New Year's Day Chase at Tramore, writes Bradley West.
Tramore has become the dual Gold Cup winner’s traditional season opener and Cheltenham prep run and once again the nine-year-old claimed the honours in the 2m5f100y contest.
Facing only four rivals, two from the same stable under Willie Mullins, this was never expected to be anything but an Al Boum Photo victory however the nature of the hat-trick feat and 19-length winning margin showed that he will take some stopping at
It wasn’t all plain sailing though and Al Boum Photo, ridden by Paul Townend, was shaky over the opening fences and never looked entirely comfortable in himself.
John Queally’s Djingle took an early lead but, after Mullins’ Brahma Bull unseated jockey David Mullins, the front runner ran out of steam.
With I’m A Game Changer bringing up the rear throughout, that left stablemates Al Boum Photo and Acapella Bourgeois to fight it out.
But, having been behind throughout the race, the Gold Cup favourite showed his prowess by serenely powering through to pass and beat Acapella Bourgeois without much difficulty in the end.
That proved to be a big result for Mullins who admitted to tension as he watched his superstar travel round the Tramore course.
“It’s a big relief,” Mullins said.
“It was nerve-wracking watching him going around there. The sun was a worry and it probably cost Brahma Bull.
“He jumped very well and Paul said he was just so idle on his own in the middle of the race, he didn’t even think he was in race.
“He had to roust him up down the back, but once he got racing he was fine. Lack of company was a bigger worry for Paul than anything else.
“We are happy with his performance, he did what he was asked to do. We just hope now that he comes out of it sound and well and we will plan for the Festival. That’s the first hurdle jumped anyway.”
Despite the lack of real opposition, Al Boum Photo’s annual Tramore trip appeared a success and now all eyes look to Cheltenham as he bids to make it a hat-trick of Gold Cup wins.
Today’s victory also continued a remarkable recent run for the in-form Townend and Mullins, who shined at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival with a number of Group 1 victories.
“Halfway around today I was thinking it would have been easier to go to Leopardstown because there would be less focus on him,” Mullins added.
“When you come here, you have to win and you have to win nicely and he did all those things.
“I usually like to do what has worked before and hopefully it will work again. A lot of ours are improving for their first run of the year and I’m expecting him to do the same.”