Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo set for Tramore trip en route to Cheltenham
Al Boum Photo is set to defend his Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup crown on the back of just one run at Tramore on New Year's Day as trainer Willie Mullins sees no reason to alter the light schedule which worked so well last season.
Tramore had better start preparing for a new year's party as the Listed Savills Chase has been pencilled in as the perfect place for Mullins' Gold Cup hero to return, and he is not one bit concerned about going straight to Cheltenham after.
Mullins said: "Al Boum Photo is entered in the John Durkan at Punchestown, but I'd imagine we will wait and do something similar to last year with him. Tramore is definitely the most likely option for him after what happened with him last year.
"We are guaranteed to get some nice ground down there and I'm not sure whether Leopardstown will get enough rain for him.
He added: "Being fresh for the Gold Cup is a help. A lot of trainers do a lot of campaigning before Christmas and then let them freshen up afterwards. The way our year is fixed, we go Christmas, the Irish Gold Cup and then on to Cheltenham.
"Tramore and then on to the Gold Cup is a format which worked last year with Al Boum Photo and, for a horse who has won a Gold Cup, it is certainly no harm to have a light campaign. I certainly don't think it would be the worst thing in the world for Al Boum to go to Tramore again."
The champion trainer is preparing Kemboy for a crack at the similarly-named Savills Chase at Leopardstown on December 28, a race he won so impressively last year by seven and a half lengths under David Mullins.
Kemboy, on whom Ruby Walsh retired at Punchestown in May, is the most high-profile Supreme Racing Club-owned horse currently banned from running – or being entered in races – while an investigation by Horse Racing Ireland is taking place.
"Kemboy seems to really like Leopardstown, so he would look a good possibility for the Savills Chase there over Christmas again. He loves that place," Mullins said.
Footpad, an impressive winner of the 2018 Racing Post Arkle, could try three miles over fences for the first time this season following a lacklustre campaign over shorter last year.
"There is a race for Footpad at Thurles in two weeks' time over two miles and six [furlongs] that would suit him, so that's where he will go. I wouldn't have any problems stepping him up to three miles. That was his trip over hurdles," Mullins said.
Min will defend his John Durkan crown, Bellshill will return at Leopardstown over Christmas, while Irish Grand National winner Burrows Saint could be upped in class on the way to a possible crack at the Grand National at Aintree.
As for the evergreen Un De Sceaux, it is back to Sandown for another tilt at the Tingle Creek.
Mullins said: "The Grand National at Aintree is an obvious target for Burrows Saint, but he is too good a horse to just plan your whole season around that and I will just play it as I see it with him. The Savills Chase at Leopardstown could be an option for him.
"The Savills Chase is also likely to be where Bellshill will return. Hopefully we won't have a repeat of the sort of ground we got at Leopardstown last season. It needs to be softer than that for our horses.
The trainer added: "The John Durkan is the one definite place I can aim Min at. He likes the place and he is fit and well. The Tingle Creek at Sandown is where we are aiming Un De Sceaux again."
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