Dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo appears to face a relatively straightforward task in his bid for a fourth successive victory in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase at Tramore.
The Willie Mullins-trained gelding first claimed the Listed contest in 2019 on his way to providing the winning-most trainer in Cheltenham Festival history with an elusive first victory in the blue riband.
He repeated the feat in 2020 and pursued the same route last season, but had to make do with minor honours in third when bidding for the Gold Cup hat-trick.
Having rounded off the last campaign by finishing second to Clan Des Obeaux in the Punchestown Gold Cup, Mullins stated his intention to race Al Boum Photo more frequently this term.
But with the Closutton handler having decided against running his charge in either the John Durkan at Punchestown or in the Many Clouds at Aintree in early December, he once again makes his seasonal reappearance in County Waterford.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “The right opportunity just didn’t come up, so you know Willie, ‘if in doubt, take it out’.
“We might try to get another run into him before Cheltenham if we can find the right opportunity. But he is as ready to go as he ever is for this race. We’ll try to match (Grade One Matheson Hurdle winner) Sharjah and win four in a row.
“He is an older horse and he needs a bit more galloping. In an ideal world, giving him another run before Cheltenham is what we would like to do.”
Al Boum Photo is opposed by three stablemates, including Acapella Bourgeois, who has filled the runner-up spot in each of the last two renewals.
The Rich and Susannah Ricci-owned pair of Brahma Bull and last season’s Grand National fourth Burrows Saint complete the field, with Mullins’ Annamix and Gordon Elliott’s Hardline late absentees.
Mullins junior added: “Acapella seems to run well around here as well – I think the track really suits him.
“He is obviously 12 years old now and he has to give 7lb to everything bar Al Boum, so it won’t be easy for him. But it is his first run of the season and it is a good place for him to start.
“The others are getting 7lb. They have had a run. Brahma Bull is fit from the summer.
“Burrows Saint had a run but his main aim will be later in the season obviously at Aintree, so it is a race that suits some of these horses who are hard to place. Al Boum will not be able to be below par in order to beat them.”