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Racing News
Wednesday 27th February 2019
Can Willie Mullins Break his Cheltenham Gold Cup Hoodoo in 2019?

Willie Mullins is one of Ireland's most successful and decorated National Hunt trainers, yet there is still one race that continues to elude him: the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The 62-year-old enjoyed another successful four days at Prestbury Park in 2018, with a total of eight winners, yet he continues to be thwarted in this blue riband contest. Despite several unsuccessful attempts in the Grade 1 event, Mullins remains confident that it won't be long until he breaks his duck in the race, and he'll be sending another four top-class contenders to Gloucestershire this year. 

Djakadam was one of four runners to represent the Mullins yard in the 2018 Gold Cup, and was the only one of the quartet to finish the race. The general consensus is that the County Kilkenny trainer will have a significantly stronger hand this time around, and he'll be pinning his hopes on Al Boum Photo, Invitation Only, Kemboy and Bellshill for this season's renewal. 

Al Boum Photo was last seen in action at the beginning of the year, winning the Listed Savills Chase at Tramore by an impressive six lengths. Despite being touted for a possible run in the Red Mills Chase, the seven-year-old has not returned to the track since and is now being primed for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

After falling when travelling well in the RSA Chase 12 months ago, Willie Mullins will be hoping for better luck for his bay gelding this time around. He has told the media that we haven't seen the best of Al Boum Photo yet, suggesting that the trip shouldn't be a problem for the talented chaser, either. 

Kemboy has won his last four races, with the latest of those successes coming in a Grade 1 event at Leopardstown at the end of 2018. He will prefer good ground, and connections will be keeping their fingers crossed for clement conditions in Gloucestershire ahead of Friday's showpiece event. The seven-year-old bypassed the Irish Gold Cup and will head straight to the Cheltenham Festival instead. 

Mullins, meanwhile, has admitted that Invitation Only will "have to step up a bit", but he put in an eye-catching performance in the Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase at the end of January that he will look to build upon.

The trainer's quartet are likely to come up against Patrick Kelly's Presenting Percy, who has been very popular in the ante-post markets, and Frodon, who impressed in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase earlier this year and drew acclaim from pros on betconnect, a social betting website that provides bettors with access to horse betting tips put forward by pro gamblers.

The 2019 Cheltenham Festival looks set to be another fascinating four days of action, with a number of National Hunt's biggest names taking to the track. It's also set to be a busy few weeks for the Willie Mullins team as they begin their preparations for the biggest four days of the calendar. He's finished as the top trainer on five occasions since 2011, and he'll be hoping to wrestle the title back from fellow Irishman Gordon Elliott in 2019.