Joe & Marie Donnelly

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.


Kicking King

As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Kicking King is best remembered for his victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2005, during a season in which he also won the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup. Ridden by Barry Geraghty, as he was for most of his career, Kicking King was sent off 4/1 favourite for the ‘Blue Riband’ event and justified favouritism in taking style, running on strongly in the closing stages to beat Take A Stand by 5 lengths.

The following season, Kicking King won the King George VI Chase – transferred to Sandown during the redevelopment of Kempton – for the second year running, but sustained a tendon injury.

He wasn’t seen in public again until January, 2008, and ran just five times, without success, before being retired from racing in October that year.

Owned by Conor Clarkson and trained by Tom Taaffe, Kicking King made his first appearance at the Cheltenham Festival in 2003, finishing second in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Switched to fences at the start of the 2003/04 season, he filled the same placing behind Well Chief in the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the 2004 Cheltenham Festival. All told, he won 12 of his 28 races and over £818,000 in prize money.