Al Boum Photo, Paul Townend
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Paul Townend discusses Champion Chase triumph and Al Boum Photo’s Gold Cup hat-trick bid

| 14.03.2022

Ladbrokes ambassador Paul Townend relives his first Champion Chase victory and discusses his five rides on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, including a hat-trick bid for Al Boum Photo in the Gold Cup.

I am delighted to have won my first Champion Chase. For the neutrals the race was probably a bit of an anti-climax but for me it couldn’t have worked out better. I couldn’t believe that I was the only one of the three big names left and it was just a matter of getting home from there.

Energumene, Paul Townend

Energumene handled the ground really well which we knew he would and he deserved that win after making such a race of it at Ascot and coming out the wrong side. I knew up by the stands that Shishkin wasn’t going and when I passed him and chased the race.

I didn’t want to go by him and Nico to arrive back and nab me again. I could ride much freer, changed tactics and kept an eye on the rest of them. Patrick was getting a great spin off Chacun Pour Soi before he got rid of him. Both of them are fine and live to fight another day.

It’s the final day of the festival, where I ride Vauban in the Triumph Hurdle. He is very closely matched with Pied Piper on their run in a maiden hurdle. We improved to beat Fil Dor the next day at Punchestown, and Pied Piper came here and gained some experience.

Vauban

I don’t think there’s much between them. They’re two exceptionally good novices and I think we were more of a novice the first day and have more room for improvement. Pied Piper looked more professional in everything he’s done when he beat us and was exceptionally good here again. I think we have a little bit more potential. Hopefully, he can put it all together and come out the right side of the tussle this time.

State Man is my next ride in the County Hurdle. He lacks experience but was going very well when he fell in the maiden at Leopardstown. It didn’t seem to leave any effect on him. He jumped brilliantly in Limerick afterwards. It was a much lesser race obviously but he got the experience and he has schooled well since. If you can overcome the inexperience, I think he has a great chance.

Minella Cocooner

I ride Minella Cocooner, a Grade One winner at Leopardstown, in the Albert Bartlett. He is a fine, big, staying horse who jumped brilliantly that day. He probably got it soft in front which he won’t do on Friday but he is a galloper. He will stay all day and if we can get into the same kind of rhythm as the last day, we will be there or thereabouts. Ginto probably sets the standard here.

The Gold Cup is the biggest race of the year for me and it gives you a buzz like no other. To me it’s what the year builds up to. It’s the best horses, the best jockeys. They gallop like no other race and I would just love to do it again. Al Boum Photo wears cheek pieces for the first time.

Al Boum Photo

We schooled him with them and thought they made him concentrate a bit more. I think he is overpriced and was not far behind the other two last year. He seems in great form coming here this year. He’s not getting any younger, but he has no miles on the clock and I am really looking forward to having another go and trying to regain the Gold Cup on him.

A Plus Tard and Galvin are so closely matched on Leopardstown. They are the biggest threats. It’s hard to read into the British form, obviously I know the Irish form a lot better. There is the unknown with Protektorat but he will give us something to think about no doubt. Dan Skelton seemed bullish about him the other day. However, I think the Irish look much stronger.

I ride Concertista in the Mares’ Chase. She’s a novice taking on Elimay and Mount Ida who have a lot more experience. We have to give them three pounds so being realistic, it will be hard to beat them. She is a classy mare in her own right and was just touched off here last year. She has taken to chasing really well. I don’t think being a novice is a huge disadvantage but as I said, you have to be realistic in this game and the other two are big threats.

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Warren Barner