Friday Cheltenham Tips: Bank on Boum for Gold Cup hat-trick

Friday Cheltenham Tips: Bank on Boum for Gold Cup hat-trick

2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo with jockey Paul Townend (far right) and trainer Willie Mullins (second left). Issue date: Thursday March 18, 2021. PA Photo.

AL BOUM PHOTO can etch his name into National Hunt folklore by claiming a third victory in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup.

After years of trying and saddling the runner-up on no less than six occasions, Willie Mullins - the most successful trainer in Festival history - finally claimed the biggest prize of them all with this largely unheralded nine-year-old in 2019.

It was by accident rather than design that that triumph came off the back of a solitary low-key run at Tramore on New Year's Day, but Mullins decided to stick to the plan last season and it yielded the same result in the Cotswolds in March.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Al Boum Photo has again had just the one outing prior to his hat-trick bid, again at Tramore, where he looked a little laboured at times before ultimately putting stablemate Acapella Bourgeois firmly in his place.

That form does not look too shabby in light of the latter's subsequent success in the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse, while Mullins has since admitted Al Boum Photo was a little undercooked.

The master of Closutton has been far more positive in the last couple of weeks about a horse who undoubtedly sets the standard, having proven himself over the course and distance in a strongly-run race two years ago and in a more tactical affair last season.

Al Boum Photo is not massively superior to his rivals and he faces a couple of new pretenders to his crown.

However, while most of his rivals have questions to answer - either in terms of ability, jumping or their capacity to handle the demands of Cheltenham - the defending champion ticks every box and is certainly the safest bet.

Jack Kennedy on Zanahiyr wins The Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle
Jack Kennedy on Zanahiyr wins The Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle

Zanahiyr gets the nod in what looks a strong renewal of the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

The Nathaniel gelding is unbeaten in three starts over obstacles and Gordon Elliott, who is currently serving a suspension, made no secret of the fact he views him as a better horse than former stablemate Quilixios, who is in opposition having recently joined Henry de Bromhead.

The pick of the home team is Alan King's Royal Ascot runner-up Tritonic, whose Flat speed was particularly evident in last month's Adonis Hurdle at Kempton.

It is not a straightforward choice, but narrow preference is for Zanahiyr, who could be that bit fresher having not run since Christmas.

The McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle is as fiercely competitive as ever, but one that could go well at attractive odds is Gowel Road.

Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge is very much unexposed after just four runs and has looked upwardly mobile in winning his last two races.

The fact connections considered running in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle is a measure of the regard in which he is held and a handicap mark of 137 could prove lenient.

Barbados Buck's is fancied for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle.

Beaten on his hurdling bow at Stratford in the autumn, the Paul Nicholls-trained inmate has since racked up a hat-trick of wins after being stepped up to three miles.

He was particularly impressive in the way he jumped and travelled at Kempton on his latest appearance and there is every chance he has not yet reached the ceiling of his ability.

Staker Wallace is a tentative choice in the St. James's Place Festival Challenge Cup, while Elimay looks a potential banker on the day for the Mullins team in the inaugural Mrs Paddy Power Mares' Chase.

The JP McManus-owned grey is three from four over fences - her only defeat coming at the hands of high-class stablemate Allaho at Thurles.

That form looks very strong in the context of this Grade Two event.

Mullins and McManus might also combine to win the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle with Gentleman De Mee.

The French import won comfortably on his Irish debut at Naas last month, after which his trainer was left contemplating a potential tilt at Grade One glory in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.

ELIMAY and Mark Walsh won the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Steeplechase (Listed).
ELIMAY and Mark Walsh won the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Steeplechase (Listed).

However, a mark of 139 has seemingly tempted connections into taking the handicap route instead and it is expected to pay off.

SELECTIONS:

CHELTENHAM: 1.20 Zanahiyr, 1.55 Gowel Road, 2.30 Barbados Buck's, 3.05 Al Boum Photo, 3.40 Staker Wallace, 4.15 ELIMAY (NAP), 4.50 Gentleman De Mee.

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