Al Boum Photo to start the new year with a bang at Tramore
2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner set for seasonal reappearance on New Year’s Day
2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner will return to action at Tramore on New Year’s Day. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Al Boum Photo will take on two stablemates among his three opponents when he sets out on the defence of his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown at Tramore.
Willie Mullins’ Festival hero is following the path he trod so successfully last season, reappearing in the Savills New Year’s Day Chase on Wednesday — having last been seen at the Punchestown Festival.
That run in May saw him beaten two lengths by stablemate Kemboy in the Punchestown Gold Cup, and came after his finest hour when he triumphed under Paul Townend in the blue riband at Cheltenham.
Mullins said: “We’re going down there primarily because the ground is nice and soft. It suited him last year, so we thought we’d go the same road again.
“After racing the other day, Paul said to me that we did the right thing not running him in Leopardstown — because he felt the ground was drying up all the time and was drier than it was described.
“It was sloppy and a bit tacky, but underneath quite dry and firm — and the times were saying that as well. They weren’t heavy or soft-ground times, so we’re happy enough with the decision we’ve made.
“He’s in good shape — but a lot of our big horses, having their first runs, are needing it. I hope he won’t need it down in Tramore.”
He added: “He likes soft ground — it brings his stamina into play. He’s a big horse and he likes a dig in the ground, so I think the ground is quite important.
“The Samcro and Faugheen match drew a huge crowd to Limerick (over Christmas), and I’d be pleased if this drew a nice crowd to Tramore as well.”
In opposition to Al Boum Photo in the Grade Three feature over two miles five and a half furlongs are fellow Mullins pair Voix Du Reve and Acapella Bourgeois - while Gordon Elliott’s mare Shattered Love completes the quartet.
Voix Du Reve and Shattered Love were last seen finishing fifth and seventh respectively in early December behind Mullins’ winner Min in the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.