Legendary trainer Willie Mullins finally seized the greatest prize of them all when Al Boum Photo landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup today.
<p>The Irish maestro had saddled 64 prior winners at the famous Cheltenham Festival, but the Gold Cup had always previously eluded him. He had finished second six times during his illustrious history and now he has finally laid the ghost of those near misses to rest. His triumph came 33 years after his father, Paddy, won the race with Dawn Run and cemented his status as the most successful trainer in Cheltenham history.</p><p>English rival Nicky Henderson began the day in perfect fashion when 20/1 shot Pentland Hills landed the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle. It put Henderson out in front as the top trainer of the meeting, with four wins from 22 races leaving him ahead of Mullins and Gordon Elliot, who both had three. It also moved Henderson level with Mullins at 64 winners apiece as the joint most successful trainers in Cheltenham Festival history. Yet Al Boum Photo’s victory moved Mullins one clear of Henderson in the all time stakes and level with him on four wins each at this year’s meeting.</p><p>“I’m really delighted for Paul [Townsend, the jockey] and the owners,” he said after the Gold Cup. “We weren't the fancied one. He had an unorthodox run up to the race. He jumped the last two well and Paul looked so relaxed. Bar something extraordinary we had it in the bag from two-out.”</p><p>All the hype surrounded Native River, Presenting Percy and Clan Des Obeaux in the build up to the race, but they all struggled. Native River, the 2018 champion, finished fourth, while Clan Des Obeaux was fifth and Presenting Percy finished eighth. Anibale Fly took the runner-up spot, with Bristol De Mai in third. Ch’tibello won the second race of the day for Dan Skelton at 12/1, and then 50/1 shot Minella Indo landed the Albert Bartlett for Henry De Bromhead.</p><p>Once the exciting of the Gold Cup had finished, 7/2 favourite Hazel Hill finished ahead of Shantou Flyer and Top Wood to win the Foxhunter after long time leader Road To Rome faded. Another long shot, 66/1 hope Croco Bay landed the penultimate race of the day and then Early Doors won the final race for Jospeh O’Brien.</p><p>Great Britain and Ireland were neck and neck at 13-13 heading into the final two races of the day, with the Prestbury Cup up for grabs. This trophy is given to the country whose trainers secure the most winners at the festival, and there was nothing to separate them this year. Croco Bay made it 14-13 to Great Britain in the final race, but it finished 14-14 after O’Brien’s triumph in the last. Mullins and Henderson finished joint top in the race to be named the leading jockey at the festival, but Mullins had more places over the four days and returned to the summit of the meeting after a two-year absence.</p>