Horse Talk with Simon Jackson:
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Al Boum Photo and Paul Townend provided Willie Mullins with a first victory in the £625,000 Grade 1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The seven-year-old took the lead at the second-last fence and galloped on relentlessly to score from the Tony Martin-trained Anibale Fly with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Bristol De Mai finishing third.
Ireland handler Mullins has saddled the runner-up six times in the Gold Cup and was understandably delighted to win jump racings’ blue riband contest.
“I was delighted for Paul. It’s fantastic to win the Gold Cup but, for Paul to ride it, that is the real result for me,” said Mullins who was recording his 65th victory at The Festival, making him the winning-most trainer in the history of the meeting. “Paul started off when he was 17 and has always been so natural and so good.
“He was riding as a claimer for me and won the Galway Hurdle for John Kiely. That really put him on the scene. He has just been unlucky that he is there alongside Ruby and, any time Ruby is free, Paul gets to ride the second horse. He is a fantastic rider and hopefully he might be champion jockey again this year.
“Not winning the Gold Cup used to bug me. The first, second, third one and then the fourth –then I was thinking maybe it is not to be. I have been lucky enough to win a Champion Hurdle, a Stayers’ Hurdle and I was delighted to win the National with Hedgehunter.
“Racing has been very good to me. I have some fantastic owners in my yard and some fantastic staff, a wonderful wife in Jackie who runs the yard, so racing has been good to me.
“I have sort of counted my blessings there and not focused on the Gold Cup, I haven’t let it burrow into my mind. If it happens, it happens and, if it doesn’t, I have had a fantastic time in racing and I hope to for a good few years to go.
“I suppose Al Boum Photo was my third or fourth choice [of Mullins’ four runners in the Gold Cup] but I knew that he would go on the ground and we always thought that he would stay.
“His run at Tramore was not the usual sort of prep run for a Gold Cup but that was because of the ground. We had him entered at Leopardstown at Christmas and the ground was just too firm and I knew that I would get ground at Tramore.
“The horse has been good and sound, and we didn’t get another run because there was no ground to run him on. Credit to all the staff in the yard who ride him out every day and look after him.
“I am delighted for everyone. I asked Paul what he wanted to do and he said that he was going to jump out, get a position and hope that he would be able to keep jumping and get him balanced.
“From an early stage, Paul had him in a rhythm jumping, with the reins relaxed and the horse doing it all. Every time he needed a squeeze, Paul was there to give him one and the horse responded. When you get into that sort of a rhythm in a race, it’s fantastic, and you just hope you don’t get any traffic problems.”
Horse Talk with Simon Jackson. Showcasing horse racing in London and the south east.