Photo goes for Gold again on day two at Punchestown

Cheltenham hero bids to follow up for Willie Mullins

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Willie Mullins is confident Al Boum Photo’s Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph has not left a mark ahead of his bid to follow up at Punchestown.

Having saddled the runner-up on no less six occasions, the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history finally broke his Gold Cup hoodoo in March as Al Boum Photo and Paul Townend roared up the famous hill in front.

With Easter having fallen late this year, the seven-year-old has at least had the best part of seven weeks to recover from the notoriously gruelling blue riband – and he is reported to be in fine fettle as he bids to add the Coral Punchestown Gold Cup to his tally on Wednesday.

Mullins said: “You don’t really know (what effect the Gold Cup will have), unless there was too much taken out of them totally and they’re not firing at home, but he seems fine.

“You never really know until the pressure comes on, maybe at the second last fence, and then you’ll find out soon enough, but that’s what racing is about – you’ve got to race to find out these things.”

Even if Al Boum Photo is at his very best, he might not have things all his own way, with two of his biggest threats hailing from his own yard.

Kemboy made it no further than the first fence at Cheltenham, but has since bounced back with a dominant victory in the Betway Bowl at Aintree under Ruby Walsh – who has opted to stay on board in preference to partnering last year’s Punchestown Gold Cup hero Bellshill.

Walsh sided with Bellshill over Kemboy and Al Boum Photo at Cheltenham, but he was pulled up with over a circuit to run. David Mullins is back in the saddle for the first time since winning this race 12 months ago.

David Casey, the champion trainer’s assistant, feels it is very difficult to split the trio.

He said: “Al Boum Photo was very good in the Gold Cup. He’s had plenty of time to get over that and seems in great form.

“Kemboy was very impressive in Aintree. We didn’t get to find out what he would have done in Cheltenham, obviously.

“Bellshill didn’t put up a show in Cheltenham, but he’s been in very good form since and he obviously likes the track.

“It’s interesting Ruby has decided to ride Kemboy over Bellshill. He went for Bellshill at Cheltenham, so he must have been impressed by what Kemboy did in Aintree to go for him.

“It’s going to be a very interesting race to watch. Kemboy and Bellshill have won in Punchestown and Al Boum Photo should have done, so they’ve all got the right credentials.

“If I was choosing, I think you’d struggle not to ride the Gold Cup winner, but they’ve all got their chance and it might just be a bit of luck on the day that decides it.”

Henry de Bromhead saddles Ryanair Chase fourth Monalee and Sub Lieutenant, who was last seen finishing second in the Topham Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree.

The Gordon Elliott-trained The Storyteller and Noel Meade’s Snow Falcon are set to return just nine days after finishing second and fourth respectively in the Grade Two Devenish Chase at Fairyhouse.

The field is completed by Brian Ellison’s British raider Definitly Red, who was brought down by the ill-fated Invitation Only at Cheltenham.

Ellison said: “Definitly Red was travelling really well in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham when he was brought down and he’s in great form.

“He is going to Punchestown a fresh horse and he should enjoy the ground the way it is at the moment. We are very hopeful that he could run into a place and I’m hoping for a good run.”

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