Bookmaker turned art collector and property investor Joe Donnelly has rekindled his interest in National Hunt racing in recent years and alongside his wife, Marie, has been thrust into the limelight primarily because of the exploits of Al Boum Photo. Bred and originally owned by French trainer Emmanuel Clayeux, Al Boum Photo was bought by the Donnellys and transferred to Co. Carlow trainer Willie Mullins in December, 2016.
Al Boum Photo made his debut at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018, as a six-year-old, but was held in third place when falling at the final fence in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase won by Presenting Percy. Nevertheless, he returned to the Festival in 2019 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and defended his title in 2020, before finishing a highly creditable third on his attempt to become the first horse since Best Mate to complete a hat-trick in the ‘Blue Riband’ event.
Of course, Al Boum Photo isn’t the only horse to carry the increasingly recognisable yellow and black colours of his owners with distinction at the Cheltenham Festival. The luckless Melon finished second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Champion Hurdle twice and the Marsh Novices’ Chase at four consecutive Cheltenham Festivals between 2017 and 2020, before pulling up in the Ryanair Chase in 2021. Shishkin, another expensive French import, won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2020 and followed up in the Arkle Challemge Trophy in 2021.