Nowadays, Paul Townend is bets known for riding Al Boum Photo, trained by Willie Mullins, to back-to-back victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2019 and 2020. Indeed, on the second occasion, Al Boum Photo formed the final leg of a 337/1 final-day treble for Townend, which also included Buring Victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle and Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Those three winners took his overall tally for the week to five which, along with second-place finishes on Benie Des Dieux in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle and Aramon in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle, allowed him to pip compatriot Barry Geraghty to the Holland Cooper Leading Jockey Award for the Ruby Walsh Trophy on countback.
Speaking of Ruby Walsh, Townend, 30, has worked for Willie Mullins for the whole of his riding career and, although he became Irish Champion National Hunt Jockey for the first time in 2010/11, spent much of that career playing ‘supersub’ to Walsh at the Closutton yard. However, Walsh announced his immediate retirement from race riding on May 1, 2019, by which time Townend had emerged from the shadow of his illustrious predecessor; he won the Irish jockeys’ title again in 2018/19 and again in 2019/20.
Of course, Townend is no stranger to the Cheltenham Festival, having ridden at the March showpiece since he was a teenager, although the 2020 Festival was the first time he had experienced the heightened expectation of riding as first choice jockey for Mullins in his own right. Now with 15 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name – the first of which was What A Charm, trained by Arthur Moore, in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle in 2011 – has some way to go to match Ruby Walsh’s career total of 59, but who knows?