After saddling the runner-up six times prior to today, legendary Irish jumps trainer Willie Mullins finally has a winner of the Grade 1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup following the gutsy 12/1 success of the Paul Townend-ridden Al Boum Photo.
An ante-post gamble on another Irish hope, Presenting Percy (10/3f), never really looked like being landed and he eventually finished eighth.
Al Boum Photo, a Grade 1 winner last season at Fairyhouse in novice company, did everything right though as he surged past last year’s winner Native River two from home, then held on from the fast finishing Anibale Fly (22/1) to score a famous two-and-a-half-length success.
Bristol De Mai (18/1) stayed on well for third ahead of Native River, with King George winner Clan Des Obeaux fifth, and Welsh National hero Elegant Escape sixth.
A day that well and truly favoured the layers began with tragedy in the opening Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle when the red-hot favourite Sir Erec sustained a fatal injury early in the race. The Nicky Henderson-trained 20/1 shot Pentland Hill, who provided Nico de Boinville with his third victory of the meeting, came out best at the business end of the contest beating another 20/1 shot Coeur Sublime.
For the third time in four seasons Nick Skelton won the Grade 3 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle, this time courtesy of 12/1 chance Ch’tibello ridden by his brother Harry.
Forty minutes later punters were stunned by the 50/1 shock win of the Henry de Bromhead-trained Minella Indo, the mount of Rachael Blackmore who once again advertised her consummate skills on her second winner of the Festival.
Punters finally had something to cheer when the well supported 7/2 favourite Hazel Hill, ridden by Alex Edwards proved four lengths too good for Shantou Flyer in (7/1) in the St James’s Place Foxhunters Chase that followed the Gold Cup. The winner was trained by Philip Rowley.
Veteran Croco Bay (66/1), seen on the racetrack just once in the last two years, silenced the grandstands when seeing off the gallant Bun Doran (11/1) in a driving finish to the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, providing trainer Ben Case with a first Cheltenham Festival winner.
The final race of the day and of what has been a memorable meeting saw the Jonjo O’Neill Jnr-ridden Early Doors (5/1), trained by Joseph O’Brien, stay on best to beat 7/2 favourite Dallas Des Pictons in a driving finish to the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey Handicap Hurdle.