The missing big picture in the collection of a great racehorse trainer has finally been found – Willie Mullins has a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in Al Boum Photo. Put it in the family album.
Mullins has been a leader in ski jumping for three decades, with Hurricane Fly and Faugheen winning the Grand National thanks to Hedgehunter and saddling more Cheltenham Festival winners than anyone else.
But when it came to the Blue Riband event, the insane Irish master was the version of snooker star Jimmy White in horse racing. Six runner-up on the biggest stage.
With a 12: 1 win by Al Boum Photo he managed to make the run, and jockey Paul Townend got a golden moment of salvation and the owners of the horse experienced their first festival victory.
The seven-year-old gelding traveled sweetly and took over the lead on the penultimate fence.
He galloped relentlessly on rain-soaked ground, defeating Tony Martin-trained Anibale Fly, who finished second with 22: 1 last year after finishing third overall last year and finishing Bristol De Mai 18-1.
"I had probably resigned myself to not winning the Gold Cup," said 62-year-old Mullins, whose stall is located in Closutton, County Carlow.
Townend, the cast of Cheltenham's all-time leader Ruby Walsh, made one mistake in Ireland last year, which cost him a big win at Al Boum Photo.
A golden legacy for Master Mullins
As the son of coach Paddy Mullins, who led the brilliant mare Dawn Run to an unprecedented champion Hurdle Gold Cup double in the 1980s, the big races at Cheltenham always had a special appeal for Mullins.
He had cracked the two-mile champion hurdles division and knew how to win over King George VI Chase over three miles in the middle of the season at Kempton, but another quarter of a mile beyond that wavy Gloucestershire track was a step too far went.
Florida Pearl in 2000 and Hedgehunter six years later, before Mullins finished second four years in a row with Sir Des Champs, On His Own and Djakadam (twice).
In other championship competitions he produced winning machines – including Faugheen, Vautour and Douvan – but he feared that his set-up would only be suitable for faster types than those best suited for the Gold Cup's persevering journey.
He also finished second in big flat races – scored by the Queen – when her horse Estim Simenon took the Gold Cup in the Ascot, while Max Dynamite finished second in the Melbourne Cup when Michelle Payne became the first woman to win Triumph on Prince Of Penzance.
You can add what the bitter blow must have been to lose 60 horses to rival Gordon Elliott after airline chief Michael O'Leary changed the loyalty of his Gigginstown House Stud in a dispute over the training fees.
The 12-time Irish champion Mullins has done what the best coaches do. He has regrouped, rebuilt and now has more horses than before, although he felt he was Deja Vu when three of his four contenders dropped to the first round this time.
"I thought we were leaving," he said.
"I think Al Boum Photo was my third or fourth choice, but we knew he would go down and we knew he would stay."
In fact, Willie's son Patrick identified the horse as the leading Gold Cup contender for the Irish Independent last month, although the coach said he had not read his son's column.
"Not winning the Gold Cup has often annoyed me, the first, second, third and then fourth – then I thought maybe it's not like that," the coach said.
"I have fantastic owners, staff, a wonderful woman in Jackie running the farm, racing was good for me."
Al Boum Photo runs in the black and yellow colors of Marie Donnelly, whose husband John earned his money with bookmaking.
It was a first festival victory for the couple, which are reputable art collectors, so you can expect one or two paintings from the photos.
Departure for Townend
When Brain Stopped at the Punchestown Festival last April, Townend inexplicably crashed to the right and crashed through the railing at the last fence as he led the Champion Novice Chase.
Stewards gave him a 21-day ban on dangerous riding, and the jockey, who had used for supporting actor Walsh, also rejected his riding fee.
However, Mullins, Walsh and the Donnellys immediately supported him and he rewarded their beliefs.
"The owners said shortly after Punchestown that they would move away and pay them back with a Gold Cup is the best feeling in the world," said Townend, 28.
"I spent all my life racing and I remember dropping out of the school bus to try to bring the Gold Cup home.
"My memories of growing up in Cheltenham are really Charlie Swan and Baracouda and the great Best Mate (who did a hat-trick in the Gold Cup 15 years ago).
"Racing is full of disappointments and you really have to enjoy the big days, but it's important to keep yourself as good as possible."
Walsh, the festival's all-time leader who broke his leg in a fall on Al Boum Photo in Cheltenham last year, had changed from his silks to his suit in time to be an interested spectator at the trophy presentation.
He clapped and smiled as Townend raised the trophy even though he had chosen Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill, who fell over the winner.
Walsh said he was satisfied with both Mullins and Townend, whose mother had died shortly before cancer, before going to Mullins' farm as a 15-year-old.
"I had it on him and Bellshill, but I just did not think we'd get the rain we had this morning, which helped him," Walsh said.
"Paul is a great guy I can work with and I am very happy about him and his sisters Caroline and Jodie and their father Tim, they have not always had it easy and they are a great unit."
Ups and downs of the festival
There was a bittersweet side of success. The mate of the winner Invitation Only, who was ridden by Patrick Patrick, the son of the coach, was the third death of the horses (out of a total of 498 runners) after a heavy fall.
Three of these were half of the deaths at last year's festival, and several new security measures were introduced, but rulers in the sport know that they can not afford complacency on welfare.
This meeting had an extraordinary background – with the flu of horses and a forecast windy Wednesday, things threatened to interfere at some point.
And the story of Al Boum Photo was not the only significant story that evolved this week.
Bryony Frost's victory on Frodon in the Ryanair Chase was the first-ever first-class victory for jumps for a female jockey in the history of the festival.
Within 24 hours, there had been a second place – Rachael Blackmore, currently Ireland's second in the Irish title race of Townend – and won in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle 50: 1. These girls can.
According to statistics released by the racetrack, this year's 71,816 meeting saw record visitor numbers on Friday, bringing the total number of visitors to 266,779.
"There are some great stories that resonate with the entire nation, providing a platform on which to build sport to connect with the general public," said Nick Rust, head of the British Horseracing Authority.
"I was very proud to be part of our sport."
There is a change of guard in the jump race. Veteran Noel Fehily has announced his retirement this week, and the Grand National winners and regular winners of the festival, Walsh, Davy Russell and Barry Geraghty, are in the final stages of their careers.
Walsh, who has won the opening hurdle of Supreme Novices for "Klassical Dream," will be 40 years old a few weeks after this year's Punchestown Festival in May.
The final race of Cheltenham in 2019 was won by Early Doors under Jonjo O & # 39; Neill junior, who was a newborn when Walsh rode his first festival winner – Alexander Banquet in 1998 Champion Bumper.
After six number two reached the frame, Al Boum Photo said Mullins was ready for a big party and he did not sound in the mood to be disappointed.
"I was here when my father won with Dawn Run and I did not come home for two days," he said.
A few hours after the win, Mullins' website featured a & # 39; Gold Cup & # 39; with photos of the team and the new champion racehorse.
Al Boum photo. Cheesy grin all around. Picture book.