Al Boum Photo (100/30 favourite) became the first back-to-back winner of the £625,000 G1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup since Best Mate (2002, 2003 & 2004) with an electric success in Jump Racing's Blue Riband event.
Ridden by Paul Townend, Al Boum Photo produced a scintillating leap at the final fence and held on gamely in the closing stages to deny the gallant Santini (5/1) to register a neck success in the extended three and a quarter-mile event.
Al Boum Photo, an eight-year-old son of Buck's Boum also became the first horse since Kauto Star (2007 & 2009) to win the race twice. He enjoyed the same preparation for this year's race as when he captured the 2019 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup having won his only other start this in the G3 Savills Chase at Tramore on New Year's Day.
Mullins is enjoying a special day in the Cotswolds, with this being his fourth winner in succession following the victories of Burning Victory (12/1, G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle), Saint Roi (11/2 favourite, G3 Randox Health County Hurdle) and Monkfish (5/1, G1 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle). Al Boum Photo's success allowed Mullins to complete a 2,196/1 four-timer.
The master of Closutton, registering his seventh victory of the week at The Festival™ presented by Magners 2020 and his 72nd victory overall at the meeting said: "We're delighted to win the race for the second year running with Al Boum Photo.
"We just decided not to break winning formula and just take in the same preparation as he did last year. Don't break a winning formula when it works and it's paid off thankfully.
"I thought this year's Gold Cup wasn't anything like last year's. I was just thinking if he had a clear round and a bit of luck then it was all to play for.
"I was happy throughout and Paul was brave on him at the last. Paul's plan came together and I'm delighted for him as well as Marie and Joe Donnelly, so I am just delighted.
"It's fantastic and an absolutely unbelievable day. Paul does his own thing and he probably rides better under a little bit of pressure.
"It's really, really good for him. I am delighted for Paul. To take over from someone like Ruby Walsh - Paul has come and stamped his authority on his season in Ireland riding for our yard.
"It is a tough act to follow, but he is Paul Townend, stable jockey to Willie Mullins and he is top-class - I'm really pleased for him.
"I asked what Paul was going to do and he sort of said what he was going to do. I think the horse just ignored the actions of Paul and he didn't disappoint the horse - he let the horse do it. That's a rider riding with huge confidence. It worked out and I am really happy and delighted for Paul."
Mullins is now heading the Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award with seven winners.
2 Santini (Richard & Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes) Nicky Henderson 8-11-10 Nico de Boinville 5/1
Two Golds for Townend
Paul Townend crowned an outstanding day at The Festival by winning the G1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup for the second year running aboard the Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo.
The French-bred eight-year-old, owned by Joe and Marie Donnelly, won by a neck from the Nicky Henderson-trained Santini (Nico de Boinville). Al Boum Photo was the 100/30 favourite.
It was Townend's third victory of the day, his fifth of the week - which means he takes the Holland Cooper Leading Jockey Award for the Ruby Walsh Trophy ahead of Barry Geraghty - and his 15th Festival success in total.
Townend said: "It's amazing. I'd want some boot in the rear end if I had been in front that early and got beat by Santini. I thought that I would never feel anything like the feeling I had here last year, but I think this is even better. It's unreal. It's a credit to Willie - to go to Tramore two years in a row and come here with one run - the man is a genius.
"To be honest, I just went out with the plan of getting into a rhythm like last year. We've missed a few fences but he's always found his feet, and it just happened again at the top of the hill, he was jumping a bit better and I ended up in front a bit sooner than I wanted, but I was able to hang on there and produce him when I needed him at the last. He's a tough animal.
"It was a very different race to last year - we knew that going out there, everyone knew it was going to be a different race to last year, but it's the same result, which is the main thing!
"I didn't have to fight for it; a couple of good jumps got it for me there, and I think that was very important. He has everything, this horse. Guts as much as everything else.
"I went into the Gold Cup last year the same as I went into it this year. I was riding for the Donnellys, and this was their one bullet. There was no real added pressure from that sense this week. Riding for Willie and them, they don't put any more pressure on. Any extra pressure I was putting on myself. [Being Mullins' number one jockey] I suppose it just meant I had better chances, maybe! At least the week has finished well!
"This is huge. This is the main stage. Before this I was having a brilliant day, but this is the icing on the cake, I suppose. The Gold Cup is the Gold Cup, and sure, we'll wait 12 months for another one again."
Donnelly delighted as Photo is picture perfect
Dressed in the black and yellow colours of Al Boum Photo, owner Marie Donnelly witnessed the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old enter sporting folklore as he became the first horse since Best Mate (2002, 2003 & 2004) to win successive runnings of the £625,000 G1 Magners Cheltneham Gold Cup.
Ridden to victory by Paul Townend, Al Boum Photo, the 100/30 favourite fended off the persistent challenge of the Nicky Henderson-trained Santini (5/1) to register a neck success in Jump Racing's Blue Riband event.
Donnelly and her husband Joe were enjoying a second victory at The Festival™ presented by Magners 2020 following the Nicky Henderson-trained Shishkin's win in the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle on Tuesday.
Marie Donnelly said: "It is unbelievable. I cannot believe Al Boum Photo has won again.
"We spoke to Paul in the paddock and Joe said to him to make history. It is special for us and also Willie to now have four winners in a row in one day at The Festival.
"Well done to Paul because he gave him a fantastic ride and he was very brave on him. He is obviously in tune with Al Boum Photo.
"I deliberately wore the colours of Al Boum Photo and I thought it would be interesting and funny to do that."
So near, so far for Santini
Former British point-to-pointer Santini ran a superb race in today's £625,000 G1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, failing narrowly to prevent back-to-back wins for Al Boum Photo.
The 100/30 winning favourite beat Santini (5/1) by a neck, while Lostintranslation (10/1) was a further one and a quarter lengths behind in third. Monalee finished a neck further back in fourth.
Trainer Nicky Henderson said: "He's a young horse and has his life in front of him. We'll be back when Al Boum Photo will be a year older and we will be a year wiser. There was just a moment when I thought he was going to get there, but the line came just too soon.
"It's been a great week and I'm chuffed to bits for the horse, for his owners, Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes who bred him, and he's given us all a great thrill. I train Shishkin [winner of this week's G1 Supreme Novices' Hurdle] for Al Boum Photo's owners Joe and Marie Donnelly, and I'm great mates with Willie and Jackie Mullins, so I've no complaints.
"There's much more to come from this horse, who has only had six runs over fences - three last season and three this - and he's got more to come. You could see the way he was finishing - at one moment he looked like he might finish third but he really fought his way back. Nico thinks he might have liked it a touch softer underfoot, yet he likes good ground. We are still learning about him."
Nico De Boinville, who rode Santini, said: "He ran an absolute blinder. Obviously, you are going to be a bit dejected when you get so close but someone has got to come second and all credit to Willie Mullins, Paul Townend and Al Boum Photo.
"It rode like a nice race, probably not fiercely run - we were all there three-out. That was only Santini's sixth [chase] run and would have made a man of him, but the dream is still alive."
Colin Tizzard, the trainer of Lostintranslation, said: "It was lovely and he ran beautifully. The rest of our runners today have all cut out at halfway - everyone could see that - but he's come out and run his race. He jumped so well and he's a lovely horse for next year. He's had a wind op since he last ran but whatever has been stopping the other horses [in the yard] may have been bothering him too. There's a little bug about, but he's come out and done this.
"I would have thought he would run at Aintree - he hasn't had too much in recent months."
Robbie Power, who rode Lostintranslation, said: "He's run an absolute corker and it's been no secret that the yard hasn't been firing this week. With that in mind for him to come out and do that is wonderful. He's only an eight-year-old and I still have confidence he will win a [Magners] Gold Cup."
Beaten jockeys in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
Nico de Boinville, second on Santini, said: "I am just a bit dejected. I thought we were going to get there.
"All credit to Willie Mullins, Paul Townend, Al Boum Photo and Mr Donnelly. Back to back Magners Gold Cups takes some doing.
"It rode like a nice race, probably not fiercely run - we were all there three-out. That was only Santini's sixth [chase] run and would have made a man of him but the dream is still alive."
Robbie Power, third on Lostintranslation, said: "He ran a cracker and felt like he did in the Betfair Chase. He was unbelievable - he jumped like a buck and felt amazing.
"I thought turning off the bend that it would be between myself and Paul [Townend, the winning rider on Al Boum Photo]. It's not a secret that the yard hasn't been firing all week, but he is only eight.
"There is more to come from Lostintranslation."
Rachael Blackmore, fourth on Monalee, said: "He stayed all the way to the line, but got tired."
Mark Walsh, fifth on Delta Work, said: "He missed the second fence and I was on the back foot from there."
Brian Hughes, sixth on Real Steel, said: "He jumped away grand, and travelled grand. He probably didn't see out the last furlong. His best form is over a bit shorter."
Harry Cobden, eighth on Clan Des Obeaux, said: "I didn't travel as well as I would have expected. He probably could have jumped a little bit sharper. There are plenty of excuses, but we weren't good enough on the day."
Daryl Jacob, ninth on Bristol De Mai, said: "I made the running. He just wasn't good enough on the day."
Aidan Coleman, 10th on Chris's Dream, said: "I travelled very, very well, but he probably didn't stay."
Jonjo O'Neil jr, eleventh and last on Elegant Escape, said: "He probably got a bit outclassed. He didn't miss a beat jumping and I am very happy with him. He ran his race."