There are many great festivals in the horse racing calendar, and there’s no denying that Cheltenham is special to most fans.
After all, it’s a course that is steeped in history, with the top jockeys, trainers, and horses all getting involved. For many, it’s the pinnacle for jump racing, and when you add in the huge viewing numbers it attracts, it really is a great spectacle.
And, within the four days of action, there is one race that stands out from the rest; the Gold Cup.
When you are checking the Cheltenham odds, it’s usually the first race many will look for, as it’s the most prestigious race at the festival. With that in mind, it’s always a tough one to call, as it’s the one that everyone wants to win.
However, a quick scan of the latest Cheltenham horse racing tips will show there is a firm favourite for the race later this month, with Al Boum Photo 5/2 to taste success.
Al Boum Photo remains on course to seek a third Cheltenham Gold Cup victory after a winning return at Tramore.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 1, 2021
Given his pedigree, it’s no surprise to see the French-bred horse as the market leader, because it’s a course he has won on multiple occasions in the past. Victories in this very race in 2019 and 2020 means Willie Mullins’ star is chasing a hat-trick later this month.
That wouldn’t be unprecedented, as the likes of Arkle and Best Mate have recorded three consecutive Gold Cup wins over the years. But, the fact it hasn’t been done for almost 20 years highlights just what a feat this would be for all connected to the horse.
Of course, it’s not going to be straightforward for the nine-year-old, as there are a host of other standout runners in the race. Champ, trained by Nicky Henderson, represents a serious threat and will attract attention from the punters, whilst A Plus Tard also has the credentials to pull off a win on the big stage. Such is the calibre in the race, it would be dangerous to dismiss several others who are more than capable of winning this Grade I race.
Yet, it will take a brave person to go against Al Boum Photo on the race he has dominated in recent years. Jockey Paul Townend was instrumental to the victory over 12 months ago, as his positional sense and understanding of the horse ensured he was primed to edge an epic dash for the line ahead of Santini.
Al Boum Photo, ridden by Paul Townend, gives trainer Willie Mullins a first Cheltenham Gold Cup victory 🏆👏
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 15, 2019
That relationship between Townend and Al Boum Photo could be key as well, with the jockey responsible for the past two Cheltenham wins. And, he will be guiding the horse again later this month, aware of what’s at stake, and knowing that he is capable of delivering under the spotlight.
Ultimately, there are many great stories waiting to be written at Cheltenham, and Mullins’ quest for a hat-trick of Gold Cup wins could be the best. In a festival packed with high-quality races, this is the one that stands out, and all eyes will be on Al Boum Photo to see if history can be made.