The Cheltenham Festival is so close you could taste the excitement in the air, and this year’s event promises to be a classic. The fans, sadly, will not make it on time to the stands as the vaccines still make their rollout, but there will be no shortage of entertainment, and every moment will be live on TV. The Festival was made to be box office, and this year is no different, with some high level matchups to look out for. The Festival is one of the biggest in the racing world and draws international attention from all over. Fans in the US may try their luck, especially as twinspires WV offers live streams and everything in between. One of the big storylines of this year’s event will be Willie Mullin’s and his domination of the Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo.
For the last two iterations of the race, Al Boum Photo has been the winner and is on the verge of history with another appearance. Winning again will mean a historic and exclusive club of three-time winners, an impressive feat only achieved by legends such Best Mate and Arkle. A knock on Willie Mullin’s one-year-old is that he has failed to captivate the general public, but then again, all of that counts of little at the end of the day if you are winning.
This year’s Gold Cup field is stacked, and in the way of Al Boum Photo will be Nicky Henderson’s Champ. The nine-year-old took the long way to the Festival and should be in peak condition to pit Al Boum Photo to the test. Last year’s runner-up Santini, is another to watch out for. Trained by Henderson, Santini was a hairpin off the last time and will be eager to see it through on this try.
Another noteworthy name is Henry de Bromhead’s and this year’s Savills Chase winner, A Plus Tard. The seven-year-old was impressive in Leopoldstown at Christmas and has been solid all season, and has the potential to give de Bromhead his first win here. Tried and tested against some of Ireland’s finest all through the season, A Plus Tard is ready to turn in a good run for Cheveley Park Stud and in memory of co-owner David Thompson.
Royale Pagaille, trained by Venetia Williams, is deemed a very capable outsider who could flip the script. The seven-year-old started the year running with novices, but it does not matter how you start, but how you finish. Beating seasoned Gold Cup runners will be reminiscent of the exploits of Coneygree in 2015.
It will be a packed field with lots to look forward to. The race itself will be a regal to watch and will be quite the story for whoever wins. Al Boum Photo is used to fending off the chasing pack, but this year’s challengers have a history and reputation of their own to establish.