Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo to return to action at Punchestown
Mullins confirms Cheltenham winner will line up for Coral Gold Cup
Paul Townend and Willie Mullins celebrate with the Gold Cup after Al Boum Photo’s victory at Cheltenham. Photograph: Paul Childs/Reuters
Friday’s Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo will return to action at Punchestown on May 1st.
Prior to his dramatic Blue Riband success, Al Boum Photo had been best known for jockey Paul Townend’s infamous blunder at last year’s Punchestown festival, the partnership crashing out through the wing of the final fence with a Grade One at their mercy.
Townend’s redemptive success on the horse was one of the major Cheltenham stories last week and on Sunday trainer Willie Mullins confirmed Al Boum Photo will line up next in the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup.
“He’s come out with a couple of cuts and bruises, no more than any steeplechaser coming back from Cheltenham would,” said the champion trainer who on Sunday paid tribute to his former colleague, the late Mick O’Toole.
He died last August, aged 86, having played a pivotal role in Mullins’s purchase of the French bred Al Boum Photo. During his own training career, O’Toole won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1977 with Davy Lad.
“It might never have happened only for Micko. We got friendly and he was always on at me about winning the Gold Cup. Then he came to me and said he had a man who might do it.
“Micko introduced me to Joe Donnelly (owner.) My instructions were to go away and buy a Gold Cup horse. Sadly Micko didn’t live to see it. But that was his goal, if you like,” Mullins said.
Al Boum Photo was one of four Mullins runners in Friday’s Blue Riband renewal and ridden by Townend after Ruby Walsh opted to ride Bellshill instead.
Mullins admitted he wasn’t sure of what to expect of Al Boum Photo going into the festival highlight.
“He fell with Ruby last year and then there the incident with Paul in Punchestown. The fact we only got one run into him down in Tramore over two and a half miles meant you couldn’t be raving about him.
“That tempered things whereas Kemboy and Bellshill had won feature races at Leopardstown which is more of a trial I think.
“But he was very good and he’s still a young horse. You’d hope horses would improve until they’re nine,” he said.
Mullins has two runners at Navan’s Bank Holiday Monday programme including last year’s £230,000 sterling purchase The Big Getaway who goes in the bumper.
Cadmium goes in the five-runner Grade Two Toals Webster Cup although testing ground will hardly be ideal for him. The Red Mills Hurdle winner Darasso is an intriguing contender on his first start over fences in Ireland.