|Monday 7th February 2022|
Will Al Boum Photo Finally Claim His Third Gold Cup at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival?
Breaking records is tough, something Al Boum Photo found out at Cheltenham in 2021. The firm favourite to win a third consecutive Gold Cup, the gelding came up short against the likes of Minella Indo and A Plus Tard. After that run, most people assumed he was out for the count.
But as the 2022 edition draws nearer on the horizon, Al Boum Photo appears to have as good an opportunity as any other runner in the field. At least, that’s what the bookies suggest.
Winning Return at Tramore
You might think that it’s only Tramore and that Al Boum Photo was odds-on at 1/6, yet it impressed the bookmakers. Soon afterwards, the online betting during Cheltenham odds were clipped from 14/1 down to 8/1, leading to the top Cheltenham Festival tips all including the former winner as a major Gold Cup contender. And with his experience and pedigree in the race, not many would bet against him.
Compared to last year’s attempt at glory, Al Boum Photo looked like he had the same enthusiasm for racing that will be required to take on the likes of A Plus Tard and Galvin in March. According to jockey Paul Townsend, he responded when he was “squeezed” and picked up nicely to beat Burrows Saint by four lengths.
Plus, the fourth favourite is lightly raced – Tramore was his first run in 248 days – and he’ll more than likely have another run out before Gold Cup Day. That means there’ll be plenty in the tank for a crack at history when the time arrives, all being well.
If Al Boum Photo’s rivals aren’t worried about the former champ’s form, they won’t be too happy with what’s going on at their stables. At 10/3, A Plus Tard, last year’s runner-up in the Gold Cup, is the clear favourite for success this time around. However, Galvin upset the odds by beating him in the Savills Chase by a short-head.
What about Galvin? Quoted at 9/2, the second favourite has great form and plenty of momentum heading into the National Hunt showpiece in March. The problem is that his trainer has entered the horse into the Irish Gold Cup, too, which takes place earlier than the English version.
Although Gordon Elliot has played down claims he will run at Leopardstown, the lure of £125,000 might be too strong to turn down. After all, that’s how much one company will pay the winner of both the Cheltenham and Irish Gold Cup winner if they claim the titles this year.
Harder Than Ever
While the omens seem positive currently, it’s wrong to ignore a major element – this will be the most challenging Gold Cup run of Al Boum Photo’s career. Firstly, he’s no longer at the peak of his powers, so there are doubts over his skill and fitness at the top level. Secondly, rival jockeys and trainers aren’t scared of him any longer.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the quality of the horse is potentially at the highest level for a decade. In Al Boum Photo and Minella Indo, there are the winners of the last three Gold Cups. Galvin is a superstar in the making after taking on A Plus Tard, and A Plus Tard will be better for last campaign’s run when finishing second.
Even the outsiders are interesting. Tornado Flyer, for example, is ranked as the 12/1 sixth favourite after shocking the horse racing world by dominating King George VI Chase. Royale Pagaille, meanwhile, is dangerous, especially if the ground softens. Expect the eight-year-old's odds of 20/1 to drop further if rain is forecast for the Cheltenham Festival.
There are healthy signs regarding Al Boum Photo right now, and punters and pundits will be excited about the possibility of a Gold Cup comeback. Of course, it’s worth remembering the size of the task seeing as the event looks stronger than ever on paper.