Al Boum Photo joined an elite group of horses to win two Cheltenham Gold Cups last year
Al Boum Photo, bidding to emulate Best Mate and, before him, Arkle and Cottage Rake, by winning a third Magners Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March, headed the 41 entries for jump racing’s blue riband race when they were published yesterday.
The nine-year-old, who still has time on his side to accumulate more than three should he be successful this time, is one of 17 Irish entries, one of seven trained by Willie Mullins and one of two owned by Joe and Marie Donnelly who also have Melon, a good runner-up in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown recently, entered in the race.
Gordon Elliott, Mullins’ big rival both in Ireland and at the Festival, has the next most entries, five; Shattered Love, Samcro, Presenting Percy, Delta Work and Battleoverdoyen.
Henry de Bromhead also has four of the Irish entries including A Plus Tard, winner of the Savills Chase, and Minella Indo, a faller in that race. He also has Monalee entered as insurance, should he make a quicker than expected return from the knock he picked up before he was due to take on Al Boum Photo at Tramore on New Year’s Day, and Spyglass Hill.
Paul Nicholls has both Frodon and Cyrname among his four entries. The other two, with less obvious chances, is Real Steel and Master Tommytucker. Nicky Henderson appears to have a strong hand at this stage with Santini, runner-up last year; Champ, the winner of the RSA Chase who looked like he would relish the more testing Gold Cup and is expected to run in the Cotswold Chase at the end of the month; and Terrefort.
Paul Townend celebrates on Al Boum Photo after winning the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase
Those looking for a winner of a more romantic nature, perhaps a horse from a smaller yard, Nick Alexander has entered Lake View Lad, who beat Santini in the Many Clouds at Aintree in December. His next start is due to be in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on January 30. A second Scottish entry is the Sandy Thomson trained Rehearsal Chase winner, Yorkshill.
“If he were to run very well we might feel stupid not to have the entry,” said Alexander on Wednesday. “But with my feet on the ground I think he’ll be going for a conditions chase at Kelso in early March and then the Grand National.”
A second Scottish entry is the Sandy Thomson-trained Rehearsal Chase winner, Yorkhill while David Bridgwater has The Conditional running and Ruth Jefferson has King George second Waiting Patiently entered, though, he is also expected to get entries in the Champion Chase and Ryanair.
The Conditional is another due to put his credentials on the line in the Cotswold Chase.
“I guess one of the factors which could come into the mix is whether the Irish are allowed to come over?” said Bridgwater.
King George winner Might Bite retires
“I mean you would have to say in the Gold Cup picture, the best form is with the Irish horses so that is something which will be interesting to see.”
Of course, what the situation will be in March no one knows but Irish horses have not been able to travel over to Britain to race since before Christmas.
Gordon Elliott was waiting on the outcome of a Wednesday night meeting between Horse Racing Ireland and the Ministry of Agriculture to hear whether he can have runners at Chepstow on Saturday.