NICKY Henderson’s Santini pushed winner Al Boum Photo to the wire in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Giving Willie Mullins a fantastic four-timer on the day, Al Boum Photo (100-30 favourite) had to dig deep to see off the opposition in a close finish up the famous hill.

Ridden by Nico de Boinville, Santini put Al Boum Photo under immense pressure on the run-in, but could not stop his rival from joining the elite band of horses to record back-to-back Gold Cup triumphs.

Al Boum Photo, Santini, Lostintranslation and Real Steel had led the pack heading to two out, where Presenting Percy fell.

Paul Townend set sail after the last and the winning post came just in time as Santini closed the gap to a neck at the line.

Lambourn trainer Henderson said of his gallant entry: “You have got to be very proud of him and pleased for everybody, it was a great run. You couldn’t have done anything else. He never touched a fence, he was in the perfect position the whole way.

“He fought like a lion. There was nothing else you could do. The winner was better by a neck on the day.

“To be fair this is only his sixth steeplechase and he has only got to improve a neck and (another 100 yards) and he was nearly going to get there. After what Champ did (in the RSA), I couldn’t hope for that twice.

“He was a couple of lengths down at the last and has got back to within a neck. Nico gave him a beautiful ride. It was a very good race.

“There is a very big difference between first and second, but Willie is a great mate and Joe (Donnelly, owner) has got a couple of lovely young horses with us, so I’m thrilled for them, as they are great people.

“This will be the only objective next season and I’ve told Willie he isn’t allowed any prep race, not even in January.

“Somebody has to finish second - it is a hard place to be, but we can’t complain.”

Further back, Lostintranslation was a length and a quarter away in third place, with the always-prominent Monalee fourth and Delta Work fifth, having struggled to get into contention following a mistake at the second fence.

Mullins said: “It’s fantastic, an absolutely unbelievable day. That man there on the screen, Paul Townend - people said he was under pressure.

“It’s not easy to take over from someone like Ruby Walsh, but Paul’s gone and stamped his authority this season in Ireland riding for our yard.”