'Al Boum' bids for Gold Cup double as Mullins eyes Douvan return
Al Boum Photo will bid to land a famous Gold Cup double when he heads to the Punchestown Festival and trainer Willie Mullins reports him to be "in great shape" after his exploits at the Cotswolds.
The seven-year-old - officially Ireland's highest-rated chaser -ended Mullins' Gold Cup hoodoo but he will have to be at his best once again if he is to land the Punchestown equivalent with Closutton stablemate Kemboy among the opposition.
"All being well, Al Boum Photo and Kemboy will pitch up there for the Punchestown Gold Cup and I hope to have other runners in that race also. Al Boum Photo is in great shape after Cheltenham," he said.
"This is certainly his prime target now. We were very pleased with Kemboy at Aintree and he looks fit and well since he came back from there so we'll take our chance.
"We have also entered Bellshill, Footpad, Killultagh Vic, Pairofbrowneyes, Pleasant Company and Yorkhill and I would certainly imagine a few more of them will run as there aren't too many more opportunities for them for the remainder of the season."
Among the opposition to the Mullins contingent is Henry de Bromhead's Monalee, while England could be represented in the shape of Aso, Definitly Red and Sizing Granite.
Mullins also revealed that Douvan could be set for a surprise return at Punchestown in three weeks' time with the injury-plagued star back in "fast work".
Pastern The exciting nine-year-old - described by Mullins as the best he has trained - looked likely to miss the whole of this season due a pastern problem but he has returned quicker than expected.
It looks like he could return for this year's Champion Chase - a race he was second in last year on his last start - with the champion trainer holding another strong hand through easy Aintree winner Min, Great Field and Footpad.
"Douvan started his fast work this week and then we'll see how he progresses between now and Punchestown but it would be nice if we could get him back there," Mullins said.
Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Klassical Dream could tackle the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle for Mullins on day one (April 30 to May 4) where Nicky Henderson's unbeaten Champagne Platinum would provide stiff competition.
Meanwhile, female riders such as Rachael Blackmore and Lisa O'Neill will break new ground when competing for Europe's most valuable ladies' race - the inaugural €50,000 Microsoft Cup - at Leopardstown next month.