Wednesday 25 March 2020

An early look at the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup contenders

Al Boum Photo etched his place in the history of Cheltenham Festival by joining a select company of horses win the Gold Cup in back-to-back years. Willie Mullins’ charge produced a fine performance to surge down the stretch in the prestigious race, edging a duel with Santini to claim the victory by a neck ahead of his rival. 

The eight-year-old will now aim to become the first horse since the legendary Best Mate to win the crown three times on the bounce. Al Boum Photo is the leading contender at 5/1 in the early horse racing betting odds to triumph in the Gold Cup in 2021. Mullins’ charge seems to have the measure of the race and Cheltenham, although there will be competition once again from a talented field. 

We’ll now take a look at if he can pull off the feat once again next year and see who could end his reign at the top, in arguably the ultimate prize in jumps horse racing. 

Al Boum Photo

After his triumph of the 2019 Gold Cup where he beat out Anibale Fly for the crown, Mullins’ charge was beaten in his next appearance. His stable-mate Kemboy bested him at the Punchestown Gold Cup, ending his campaign on a low note. The French thoroughbred was rested for seven months before he returned to action for the Savills New Year's Day Chase at Tramore.

Al Boum Photo was the odds-on favourite for the race and delivered with an emphatic victory, finishing six lengths ahead of his nearest rival. The eight-year-old arrived for the Gold Cup in prime form and Paul Townend at the reins put forward another brilliant ride. He timed the surge to perfection, with the bay gelding possessing just enough speed to see out the win by a fine margin. Whether he can maintain that form for next season remains to be seen. 


Nicky Henderson’s charge almost beat out Al Boum Photo down the stretch, but just lacked the pace when it mattered the most. Had the race been a fraction longer Santini may have been able to snatch the victory away from the French thoroughbred. It was still a fine performance from the bay gelding and Nico de Boinville, who will be optimistic about another run in the event next year.

It was the second season in a row that Santini finished second in a meet at the Festival, having been beaten out by Topofthegame in the RSA Novices’ Chase in 2019. He bounced back this term, notching impressive victories in the Future Stars Intermediate Chase and the Cotswold Chase. The eight-year-old put in a fine effort at the Gold Cup, and may be richer for the experience next season to dethrone Al Boum Photo. 


The Irish thoroughbred put in one of the performances of the week to win the RSA Novices’ Chase. It looked as though Minella Indo and Allaho were destined for a tense duel on the line for the win, but Champ exploded out of nowhere to surge between the two horses to close out the victory by a length. Henderson’s charge will now have the challenge of taking the next step to compete for the Gold Cup against the elite horses of the National Hunt.

He recorded solid victories in the Berkshire Novices' Chase and the KKA-Highpoint Beginners' Chase at Newbury. However, the only proof of his Gold Cup credentials will come in the new season and perhaps the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Champ is one to monitor as, like his victory in the RSA Novices’ Chase, he could burst on to the elite scene next term.