There’s just one week left to wait until we are all glued to our television sets as the Cheltenham Gold Cup gets underway. Of course, Al Boum Photo will steal all the headlines between now and next Friday, with the Willie Mullins-trained horse aiming to make history.
The nine-year-old will have his sights set on a third successive victory in the Festival’s showpiece, and that would see his name etched into the history books alongside the likes of Arkle and Best Mate.
The Gold Cup odds are firmly in his favour. But winning the race again is going to be no easy feat. Mullins and Al Boum Photo’s regular jockey Paul Townend will be aware just how difficult a task is in front of them.
Last year, the nine-year-old held on by just a neck to deny the late charge of Santini and Nico de Boinville, and all those connected with the horse will be hoping it’s plainer sailing this year. But that would be somewhat optimistic.
Those hot on the heels of Al Boum Photo this year have incredible pedigree. Second favourite Champ, whose name also features in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle ante post betting, impressed recently on his first run of the season at Newbury, whilst the likes of A Plus Tard, Kemboy and Royale Pagaille are heading to Prestbury Park on the back of wins.
Another horse that will certainly be well backed by the punters is Frodon. The nine-year-old, trained by four-time Gold Cup-winning trainer Paul Nicholls, shocked the field in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, as he won the race as a 20/1 shot.
Many people are predicting that Frodon could usurp the favourites again in the Gold Cup. It’s not just the average onlooker who is confident of the nine-year-old’s chances either.
Nicholls, who has already racked up an impressive 141 winners this season, is ‘convinced’ that the King George VI winner is in with a ‘strong chance’ of winning this year’s showpiece event.
“He retains his enthusiasm so well and his jumping has been impeccable this season,” the English trainer said. “I’m convinced he’s got a strong chance.
“Away from the favourite, it’s very much a level playing field. I couldn’t see him winning the King George, but he went on and did it. So, he has every chance and I’m very excited about him.”
Those looking for more of a reason to back Frodon in the Gold Cup will be feeling more confident now that his trainer has claimed that he’s got the credentials, and at odds of around 10/1, the punters will be hoping to get one over on the bookies.
What a moment it would be for the nine-year-old’s regular jockey Bryony Frost as well. The 25-year-old’s fantastic relationship with Frodon is part and parcel of the duo’s success.
In 2019, they won the Ryanair Chase at the Festival together and of course the King George is their latest triumph, with Frost becoming the first female jockey to win the race.
Winning the Gold Cup would be the biggest of victory of both horse and rider’s career thus far. For Frost, it would mark another historic win, as she could become the first female jockey to win the showpiece race. However, Rachael Blackmore, who could ride A Plus Tard, will be eager for that personal accolade as well.
It’s set to be an incredible race. Should Al Boum Photo not turn up to the best of his ability on the day, then it really will be a level playing field and anyone’s race. So, it’s certainly worth keeping your eye out for Frodon and Frost!