Punchestown Gold Cup preview: Kemboy and Al Boum Photo clashPublished on: April 29, 2019Author: Jamie Clark
As in the Champion Chase earlier in the Festival, Willie Mullins launches a three-pronged attack in a bid to win a fifth Punchestown Gold Cup this Wednesday (18:05).
Two young staying chasers from his Closutton stables duke it out for favouritism and over an extended 3m in this feature Grade 1 event.
Joining Cheltenham hero Al Boum Photo is Leopardstown Christmas and Aintree Betway Bowl winner Kemboy, and last year’s Punchestown and this season’s Irish Gold Cup victor Bellshill.
While the winner looks likely to be a Mullins mount, choosing between these three – particularly the two seven-year-olds – is tough. Each has claims and the lightly-raced Al Boum Photo just shades the ratings battle.
Who would’ve thought the tight, turning track at Tramore around which he won a Listed contest when doing three laps and covering 2m 5f would prove ideal prep for the Cheltenham Gold Cup?
Al Boum Photo is still unexposed as a stayer and drops back in trip from his Prestbury Park heroics here. That cosy 2 1/2 lengths victory over the ultra-consistent Anibale Fly commands him the utmost respect here at 7/4 with Coral.
Had Paul Townend not elected go around the final fence in the 3m Champion Novice Chase here 12 months ago, Al Boum Photo would already have a Punchestown Festival win on his CV.
If there is one chink in his armour, however, then it is that arguably all of his best form is on a softer surface than the forecast ground.
Kemboy could have edge on the ground
That makes Al Boum Photo an opposable market principal by stable companion Kemboy. His early exit at Cheltenham came far too soon to know exactly what would’ve happened between the pair.
But for taking what looked to be a bad step on landing over the first fence and unseating his rider, his progressive profile would be unblemished.
As a Punchestown Festival winner in handicap company 12 months ago, Kemboy has winning course experience under his belt. After then winning on reappearance in the Clonmel Oil Chase, he relished good ground at Leopardstown over Christmas.
That Grade 1 victory by a smooth seven lengths marked Kemboy out as on a serious upward curve, and he bounced back from Cheltenham when bolting up in the Betway Bowl at Aintree.
He made all on Merseyside under Ruby Walsh and was value for more than the nine-length winning margin over King George VI Chase victor Clan Des Obeaux.
As Kemboy is rated just 1lb inferior to Al Boum Photo, there is precious little in it between them. Elite races of this nature are about having strong views.
While a reverse forecast featuring the pair is an obvious bet, Kemboy may shade things if underfoot conditions are yielding as expected. Kemboy gets our vote at 6/4 with Bethard to make it three Grade 1s in his last four starts.
Bellshill seeks second success but looks vulnerable
Defending champ Bellshill cannot be totally discounted either, especially if treated on the pick of his form.
This nine-year-old held on well to deny the unlucky Djakadam in the Punchestown Gold Cup last year and, having previously won the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse, big things were expected of him this season.
You can make a case that Bellshill’s best form suggests staying handicaps like the Irish Grand National or English equivalent at Aintree are endurance races that would suit him best.
He was only beaten a length in the former at Fairyhouse last year when demoted a place by the stewards. While he did win the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival on his penultimate start, Bellshill only just got up in the final strides.
Both he and the short-head runner-up, Road To Respect, haven’t done much to advertise the form since. Mullins allows him to take his chance and try to win this again, though.
That is despite the fact that Bellshill was pulled-up at Cheltenham. No early departure like Kemboy, he simply wasn’t right around the unique undulations of Prestbury Park.
Perhaps Cheltenham just isn’t his track. Bellshill nonetheless looks vulnerable to his younger stablemates here and, despite a 6/1 price with Betway, may be worth taking on as he bids to defend his crown.
Monalee may be best each-way value
Of the remaining five, Monalee is a consistent performer at this level in a way that others are not. Although Henry De Bromhead’s eight-year-old has only won a Grade 2 contest in open company, he has run some solid races in defeat.
Monalee was third to the re-opposing Snow Falcon on his return to action at Down Royal. Noel Meade’s runner just can’t be fancied here after finishing a way below par fourth at Fairyhouse over Easter.
The trainer also said previously that Snow Falcon needed breaks in between his runs, so being turned out again after nine days is a concern. He could come on for the run following a break, but Monalee looks value to reverse previous form.
Although that one has over seven lengths to find on Kemboy from Leopardstown, a 164 rating puts Monalee within 4lb of Bellshill. At 10/1 with Unibet, he looks each-way value and preferred to fill third place instead of a Mullins clean sweep.
Definitly Red was brought down at Cheltenham and, even if that hasn’t left its mark, the British raider just doesn’t have the proven form at the highest level to look a threat here.
Sub Lieutenant is the sole representative for Gigginstown House Stud and this other De Bromhead runner has enjoyed a very busy campaign.
Having chased home Cadmium over the Grand National fences in the Topham last time out, this really does look one race too many for the 10-year-old.
The Storyteller was a couple of places in front of Snow Falcon behind Jett at Fairyhouse. Although Gordon Elliott’s eight-year-old is a course and distance winner, he wouldn’t be if Al Boum Photo hadn’t ran out.
OpenOdds’ Punchestown Gold Cup shortlist
Al Boum Photo ✮✮✮✮✰