Willie Mullins has done almost everything there is in National Hunt horse racing, but the Irish champion trainer is yet to saddle a winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The County Carlow handler has gone close more than once and aims four staying stars from his stable at the blue riband event of steeplechasing on Friday, 15 March. What are the pros and cons of the Mullins quartet going for the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup?
Al Boum Photo
Seven-year-old Buck’s Boum gelding Al Boum Photo has had a chasing career full of incident so far. He fell two out in the RSA Chase when staying on but looking held in third at the Cheltenham Festival last year.
Al Boum Photo put that tumble behind him, however, when getting the better of JLT heroine Shattered Love when dropping back to 2m 4f in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse over Easter. That is the kind of Grade 1 performance he’s capable of putting in, but he then bizarrely ran out when jockey Paul Townend mistakenly thought the final fence was being omitted in the 3m Champion Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival.
He has won his one start since this season, comfortably landing a Listed 2m 5f contest at tight track Tramore by six lengths from 2017 Ladbrokes Trophy winner Total Recall. Al Boum Photo will give punters a thrill ride if you back him at 14/1 with Betfair that’s for sure.
Punchestown and Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill stays further than the Cheltenham trip of an extended 3m 2f. That is an attractive quality from as the run to the line up the Prestbury Park hill from the last always demands stamina.
The nine-year-old King’s Theatre gelding was beaten just a length in the 3m 5f Irish Grand National last season and came on for the run when only fourth in the Savills Chase on reappearance. If there’s one negative with Bellshill, it’s he has never finished nearer than third in a Cheltenham Festival race, but his Punchestown and Irish Gold Cup form must be respected at 12/1.
Eight-year-old Thyestes Chase winner Invitation Only is among Cheltenham Festival tips from Betting.Betfair as one who could go well in the Gold Cup at a big price. The son of Flemensfirth has franked the form of Al Boum Photo’s Tramore victory where he was only third by landing that Grade A Gowran Park handicap.
Victory in that contest was a career-best for Invitation Only, who made the frame in Grade 1 events at the Dublin Racing Festival and Punchestown as a novice last term. He’ll need to improve again for the Gold Cup, but has the scope to do so and may have a better chance than odds of 33/1 suggest.
Mullins’ most likely Cheltenham Gold Cup winner according to the betting is Kemboy. The seven-year-old Voix Du Nord gelding has improved by landing each of his last four starts. His Savills Chase victory over Monalee at Leopardstown during Christmas was very impressive and the runner-up has won since.
Kemboy is entitled to be reasonably prominent in the Gold Cup betting at 10/1, but previous Cheltenham Festival runs saw him take minor honours when fifth in the Neptune over hurdles and fourth to Shattered Love in the JLT. He’s another Mullins mount on a seriously upward curve, however, and commands respect.