Redemption day for Paul Townend on the horse that "he owed it to" 6 months ago

Redemption day for Paul Townend on the horse that "he owed it to"

It just had to be, didn't it?

Let's rewind ten months for a second.

Paul Townend and Al Boum Photo lead going into the last at Punchestown with the Champion Novices' Chase seemingly at their mercy.

Willie Mullins is licking his lips.

The Closutton handler is trailling Gordon Elliott in the champion trainer standings and a win here - on one of the final days of the Irish horse racing calendar - will put him back in the driving seat.

What the hell is Paul Townend after doing?

Al Boum Photo, with his jockey taking an un-required glance behind him, runs out through the rails bringing Finian's Oscar with him and costs his trainer, owner and all of the horses' connections.

Mistakes happen, but punters with holes in their pockets are a ravenous bunch and this was an iced up invitation to let loose.

Townend was given a 21 day ban for dangerous riding and was lynched left, right and centre by bloodthirsty Al Boum Photo backers.

“I thought I heard a shout and that the last fence was being bypassed," he said in a statement the next day.

“It was a split second reaction. I wish to apologise to connections and to punters. I’d like to leave this behind and move on with today’s rides.”

That was a man hurting hard.

Willie Mullins probably was too but he hasn't got to where he is today without loyalty to those who've served him well. Paul Townend has served him better than most. One of Mullins' most reliable lieutenants, the 2010/2011 Champion jockey has enjoyed more good days in the saddle than bad and it's rare that he's let his boss man down.

And by the very next day, the Cork man was doing what he does, doing what he always has done.

Mullins gave him another chance and Townend was back in the winners enclosure leaving it all behind him.

Fast forward another ten months and it's still business as usual for the Carlow based team.

Townend has moved on - has expertly steered some of Mullins' finest to glory in the mean-time, none more so than Duc Des Genievres in Tuesday's Arkle, but maybe, maybe this one was written in the stars.

On Cheltenham Friday, on Gold Cup day - Townend was booked in for the ride on, you guessed it, his old pal, for the most iconic steeplechase of all.

You'd better believe it, they bounded up the Cleeve hill, irrepressible, unmatched and Townend had finally and fully put those Punchestown demons to bed.

A masterclass of a ride. Townend's face told a story in itself.

His post-race interview with Racing TV told even more.

"My body's tingling, I swear to God it's shaking, I genuinely can't believe it."

It's a game with many swings and plenty of roundabouts, but at the end of the day, it's a wonderful, wonderful game.