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Al Boum Photo goes for Gold at Punchestown

Al Boum Photo has an enhanced opportunity to add the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup to his two famous Cheltenham titles.

Willie Mullins’ dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero had to settle for third behind Minella Indo last month in his quest to join the most select group of racing greats as a three-time winner.

There will be no Minella Indo in his way on Wednesday, though, after trainer Henry de Bromhead ruled the eight-year-old out of his scheduled final run of the season because of a bruised foot.

Kemboy beat Al Boum Photo in the race two years ago - after which Ruby Walsh promptly retired
Kemboy beat Al Boum Photo in the Punchestown Gold Cup two years ago – after which winning jockey Ruby Walsh promptly retired (Brian Lawless/PA)

While Minella Indo is fully expected to be back to defend his Cheltenham crown next year, his Punchestown absence leaves a field of just six.

Al Boum Photo will be ridden by Paul Townend following his Gold Cup-winning jockey’s return to fitness from a foot injury.

They are the new favourites to gain revenge on stablemate Kemboy, who beat them in this race in 2019 and is therefore the most recent winner.

Paul Nicholls’ dual King George VI hero Clan Des Obeaux is a major contender too, travelling over to uphold British honour after the home team’s eclipse in so many races at Cheltenham.

Mullins senses Al Boum Photo was possibly not quite firing on all cylinders in his Cheltenham hat-trick bid.

“People could say that Al Boum Photo’s run might have been good enough to win the last two Gold Cups, and he just met two good horses on the day,” he said.

“I’m not saying he’d have won the Gold Cup, but I thought he could have run better – maybe he didn’t fire as well as he has (in the past).

“Certainly the last five jumps weren’t as strong as they were last year. He has worked well in the meantime, and I’m happy with him where he is at the moment.”

Kemboy’s two-length victory from Al Boum Photo two years ago was a result which sparked pandemonium as the winner’s jockey Ruby Walsh announced his immediate retirement after the race.

Mullins – who also runs Melon, in the Al Boum Photo colours, and Easy Game – added: “Kemboy worked very well the other morning; I was very pleased with him.”

Clan Des Obeaux, the sole British challenger, certainly has the right credentials to mix it with the best of the Irish – and was right back to his very best when winning by 26 lengths at Aintree this month.

However, he will face a completely different test to the one he passed that day.

“He won well at Aintree the other day, but he has obviously won the King George twice – and going right-handed seems to suit him better,” said Nicholls.

“He’s a much more mature horse now. Cheltenham doesn’t suit him at all – that race and the ground at the time. This is much better for him.

“He does seem to like this time of year when the sun is shining and looks great.

“If he performs like he did at Aintree the other day, he’s going to be right in the mix.”

Clan Des Obeaux and Sam Twiston-Davies after winning the King George
Clan Des Obeaux and Sam Twiston-Davies after winning the King George (Steven Paston/PA)

Sam Twiston-Davies, on board for the second of Clan Des Obeaux’s King George victories in 2019, is reunited with the nine-year-old – in place of Harry Cobden, who suffered a season-ending injury shortly after their victory together at Aintree.

Twiston-Davies said in his William Hill blog: “I’m very pleased to be asked to step in and ride Clan Des Obeaux while Harry is out on the sidelines.

“He felt brilliant in the early part of the season when I rode him at Haydock, finishing second on heavy ground, but then things didn’t quite work out for us in the King George at Kempton.

“It was a funny race – we didn’t get a very smooth run around, and he made a couple of mistakes down the back, but there’s no hiding what he did at Aintree last time out – he was very impressive.”

After Clan Des Obeaux’s three placed runs at Haydock, Kempton and then Newbury in February, Nicholls took Cobden’s advice to fit him with cheekpieces for the first time at Aintree – and the result was an emphatic win in the Grade One Betway Bowl.

Twiston-Davies added: “He jumped nicely, got himself into a good rhythm – and if he’s able to do that on Wednesday, then we should be in for a massive run.

“He’s at a nice age as a nine-year-old. Physically and mentally he looks the complete package, and he should be right near his peak now.

“Punchestown is a beautiful, right-handed track that should suit him well – although he’s just as good going the other way round.

“I’ve only ridden the track a handful of times and will always remember winning the Champion Hunters Chase there back in 2009 on Baby Run.

“This is obviously a bit of a different task to that, but I’ll have a good walk of the track, get all the information I can and make sure we’re fully prepared for whatever it throws at us.

“He’s a very classy horse that still manages to get through the heavy ground, but it doesn’t see him at his best, so the expected good, good to soft ground will be ideal for him.”

The field is completed by Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies, another winner from Aintree who steps up to three miles for just the second time in his career.

Minella Indo ruled out of Punchestown with bruised foot

Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Minella Indo has been ruled out of the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday with a bruised foot.

Henry de Bromhead was forced to pull the plug on his intended seasonal swansong when he discovered the problem on Monday.

Minella Indo led home a historic one-two for the trainer in the Gold Cup last month, when beating stablemate A Plus Tard.

“It’s a very minor thing, but it’s the right thing to do and we thought we’d let everybody know sooner rather than later,” said De Bromhead.

“He just didn’t seem right when we were looking at him and when we had a look he’s bruised the sole of his foot.

“We’ll call it a day now, he’s had a great season.”

Minella Indo’s win capped a fantastic Cheltenham for the De Bromhead team, having also won the Champion Hurdle with Honeysuckle and the Champion Chase with Put The Kettle On – the first time all three feature races had been won by the same trainer in one year.

De Bromhead then went on to saddle the first two home in the Grand National with Rachael Blackmore creating history on Minella Times, beating Balko Des Flos.

In the absence of Minella Indo, Al Boum Photo, who had won the previous two Gold Cups at Cheltenham and was third this year, is the new 13-8 favourite with Coral.

Al Boum Photo (left) is now favourite for the Punchestown Gold Cup
Al Boum Photo (left) is now favourite for the Punchestown Gold Cup (Michael Steele/PA)

“Not much has gone wrong for Henry de Bromhead in recent weeks, but the setback to Minella Indo means the trainer won’t be adding the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup to his incredible big-race haul this season,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

A field of six will now line up, including a four-pronged challenge from the Willie Mullins stable, with last year’s winner Kemboy, Easy Game and Melon joining Al Boum Photo.

Paul Nicholls sends over Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the Betway Bowl at Aintree this month, while Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies is the other contender.

Cheltenham Festival winners Galopin Des Champs and Vanillier clash in the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.

The latter lifted the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle for Gavin Cromwell, while the Mullins-trained Galopin Des Champs took the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Vanillier will be out to follow up his Cheltenham success at Punchestown on Wednesday
Vanillier will be out to follow up his Cheltenham success at Punchestown on Wednesday (Tim Goode/PA)

Mullins also has Albert Bartlett fourth Stattler – with the third, John McConnell’s Streets Of Doyen, also in the mix in an eight-runner field.

Sir Gerhard, for the Mullins stable, is the headline act in the third Grade One race on the card, the ITM – Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race.

The six-year-old attempts to take his perfect record under Rules to four after his success in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

He got the better of stable companion Kilcruit by half a length that day, and the pair clash again in a mouth-watering contest.

Mick Halford’s Ardla, Eric Bloodaxe from Joseph O’Brien’s yard and Stuart Crawford’s O’Toole are also among the eight runners.

Minella Indo bids for famous double at Punchestown

Minella Indo heads a field of seven for the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup.

Henry de Bromhead’s eight-year-old will bid to become the fourth Cheltenham Gold Cup winner this century to complete the coveted double in the same season after Kicking King (2005), War Of Attrition (2006) and Sizing John (2017).

Jack Kennedy, who partnered Minella Indo to glory at Cheltenham, retains the ride on Wednesday.

He faces a four-pronged challenge from Willie Mullins’ stable, including last year’s winner Kemboy.

Al Boum Photo, winner of the Gold Cup in 2019 and 2020 and third this year, takes on Minella Indo again. Easy Game and Melon complete Mullins’ team.

Paul Nicholls sends over Clan Des Obeaux, winner of the Betway Bowl at Aintree this month, while Joseph O’Brien’s Fakir D’oudairies is the other contender.

Cheltenham Festival winners Galopin Des Champs and Vanillier clash in the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.

The latter lifted the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle for Gavin Cromwell, while the Mullins-trained Galopin Des Champs took the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Vanillier will be out to follow up his Cheltenham success at Punchestown on Wednesday
Vanillier will be out to follow up his Cheltenham success at Punchestown on Wednesday (Tim Goode/PA)

Mullins also has Albert Bartlett fourth Stattler – with the third, John McConnell’s Streets Of Doyen, also in the mix in an eight-runner field.

Sir Gerhard, for the Mullins stable, is the headline act in the third Grade One race on the card, the ITM – Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race.

The six-year-old attempts to take his perfect record under Rules to four after his success in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.

He got the better of stable companion Kilcruit by half a length that day, and the pair clash again in a mouth-watering contest.

Mick Halford’s Ardla, Eric Bloodaxe from Joseph O’Brien’s yard and Stuart Crawford’s O’Toole are also among the eight runners.