The 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup once again featured the first, second and third from the 2018 renewal, namely Native River, Might Bite and Anibale Fly, but having mixed fortunes since, started at odds of 6/1, 14/1 and 22/1, respectively. Despite not having run over fences since winning the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival twelve months previously, Presenting Percy, trained in Co. Westmeath by Patrick Kelly, started favourite at 100/30.
However, Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins, once again, saddled four runners in an attempt to finally end his Gold Cup ‘hoodoo’ and improve on his unenviable record of six second-place finishes in the ‘Blue Riband’ event. It turned out to be a bitter-sweet race for Mullins; three of his charges, including failed to finish, but the fourth, 12/1 chance Al Boum Photo – who was, by his own admission, only his ‘third or fourth choice’ – produced the run of his life under jockey Paul Townend to win by 2½ lengths.
Anibale Fly was placed again, finishing to good effect to fill second place and Bristol De Mai, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, took third place, a further 3¾ lengths away. Presenting Percy, attempting to become the first horse for nearly 90 years to win the Gold Cup without a preparatory race over fences, went lame, Native River was as game as ever, but never really travelling on going probably slightly faster than ideal and King George VI Chase winner Clan des Obeaux appeared not to get home over the extra two-and-a-half furlongs.
As a footnote, victory for Al Boum Photo also provided redemption for Townend, who had inexplicably elected to go around, rather than jump, the final fence on the same horse in the Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown the previous April, thereby denying connections €59,000 in prize money.