Willie Mullins believes Al Boum Photo’s light campaign is a positive as he gears up to defend his Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup crown.
Al Boum Photo is bidding to become the first horse since the great Best Mate in 2002, 2003 and 2004 to win back-to-back editions of jumps racing’s Blue Riband.
The eight-year-old has followed the same path to this year’s Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, with his sole appearance resulting in a comfortable victory in the Grade 3 Savills Chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
Ireland’s multiple champion Mullins is the all-time leading handler at The Festival, with 65 winners, and landed The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award for the sixth time in 2019.
Mullins said: “Last season just worked out well for Al Boum Photo, going from Tramore to Cheltenham. I did not even enter him for the Dublin Racing Festival this year, just in case I was tempted to run him. I am probably a creature of habit and when something works, we go back, do it again and hope for the best.
“He is going to come into the race nice and fresh, off a nice confidence-boosting prep run. It can be very hard sometimes for Gold Cup winners to come back and win after their Gold Cup.
“He has done that, albeit in a Grade 3 race, and that is a fair statistic compared to recent Gold Cup winners. Traditionally, they don’t come back and win the following season or their form takes a huge drop. Some of them don’t come back at all and at least he has done that.
“I don’t think it is a tougher Gold Cup, I thought last year’s race was very tough. I don’t know if he is a better horse this year, as I have not pressed many buttons and he is not a horse who advertises himself at home.
“All I know he is on target from where we were last year and, with age and experience, he should improve. But statistically, Gold Cup winners find it very hard to come back and win.
“That is against him, but I think his preparation is probably a plus. He is going there in good order and in a good frame of mind. Normal improvement should come given his age and everything, and if that happens, he should have a fantastic chance.”
The Festival™ presented by Magners gets under way on Tuesday, March 10.