As the joke goes, come 3.30pm on Friday it really could be a case of déjà vu all over again in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup. A year after Minella Indo led home his stable companion A Plus Tard and Al Boum Photo in jump racing's most coveted prize, the trio are back in pursuit of 'Blue Riband' glory.
Added to the mix are new players in Galvin and Protektorat as well as Tornado Flyer whose dubious lot it is to be perhaps the most ignored King George winner ever to line up in a Gold Cup.
Various tenuous arguments can be made too for a number of outsiders although the last real Gold Cup 'springer' to pop up was the 20-1 Lord Windermere in 2014. On that occasion Davy Russell famously won the day on the track and in the steward's room.
The veteran former champion jockey is on board Galvin this time and victory would put a perfect seal on the remarkable comebacks of both Russell and trainer Gordon Elliott. The latter's rehabilitation from the reputational blow of last year's notorious image of him sitting on a dead horse has been taken as read within racing for some time.
There could be no more public statement of repair though than victory in the race that matters most.
Russell’s comeback from neck injuries that at one point threatened his career has been one of the stories of the season. The 42 year old has always thrived in the big occasion and there is considerable stable confidence in Galvin providing him with another Gold Cup victory, particularly if ground conditions dry out.
Russell was stood down for the rest of Thursday’s card after a fall from Conflated in the Ryanair but is expected to be fit for Gold Cup day.
It is Rachael Blackmore who looks to have a Gold Cup score to settle. Blackmore's pioneering exploits at last year's Cheltenham festival - and in the Grand National - saw the Irishwoman gain a global profile that she has handled with aplomb.
However, the one blip during an otherwise dominant Cheltenham 2021 was picking wrong in the biggest race of all.
A Plus Tard came up a length and a quarter short of Minella Indo with Jack Kennedy enjoying the ultimate 'spare' success. It's hard not to think that even with all her overwhelming success it hasn't niggled at Blackmore that she got that wrong.
No such pick was necessary this time with Henry De Bromhead opting for Robbie Power to ride Minella Indo. A Gold Cup winner on Sizing John five years ago, Power rode Minella Indo to finish runner up to Conflated in last month's Irish Gold Cup.
What would ordinarily be regarded as a merely satisfactory effort has to be taken in the context of Minella Indo’s track record of stepping up a level when it comes this time of year at Cheltenham. The defending champion has become an epitome of a ‘Spring horse’ and his stamina is assured.
Doubts about A Plus Tard relishing the final hill quite as much as his stable companion won’t be helped by soft ground although Cheltenham’s capacity to dry out quickly is famed.
Considerations on which of the De Bromhead pair emerges on top this time will be the focus of much pre-race debate, to the extent that the third leg of last year’s Gold Cup ‘Trifecta’ is comparatively ignored.
That’s nothing new to Al Boum Photo, one of just eight horses to win the Gold Cup more than once, but whose profile is low-key in comparison to the scale of his achievements. That is reflected in dismissive 12-1 odds for such an accomplished performer.
This is a horse that started favourite to complete a Gold Cup hat-trick last year only to come up five and a half lengths shy. Afterwards Willie Mullins suspected he simply wasn't quite as sharp as when he won in 2019 and 2020.
Al Boum Photo is equipped with first-time cheek-pieces this time and his versatility in terms of ground is a plus. The horse has also reportedly bounced back from some lack-lustre workouts and impressed in a recent schooling session.
At 10, Al Boum Photo is one of the oldest in the race but as it’s going to be just his 20th career start he hardly fits the profile of some grizzled veteran. So if there is a familiar finish, the betting value could be in Al Boum Photo turning things around with some old rivals and becoming just the fifth triple winner of the Gold Cup.