Willie Mullins admitted that he had thought he might never win the Gold Cup until Paul Townend steered Al Boum Photo to victory at Cheltenham today.

The Closutton handler had saddled the runner-up in six editions of the world's elite jumps racing's most prestigious contest and was delighted to finally enter the winner's enclosure as the 12/1 shot delivered.

Mullins (62), whose victory made him the winning-most trainer in the history of the meeting with 65, said: "I've had six seconds in the race and I had probably resigned myself to the fact that I probably would not win it.

"Lots of people in a number of sports never land the pinnacle event and racing has been very good to me. I've had a fantastic life in racing with fantastic staff and fantastic owners, so this is really the icing on the cake as I never expected to win this race.

"Not winning the Gold Cup used to bug me. The first, second, third one and then the fourth - then I was thinking maybe it is not to be.

"I have been lucky enough to win a Champion Hurdle, a Stayers' Hurdle and I was delighted to win the National with Hedgehunter. I have sort of counted my blessings there and not focused on the Gold Cup, I haven't let it burrow into my mind. If it happens, it happens and, if it doesn't, I have had a fantastic time in racing and I hope to for a good few years to go.

"I suppose Al Boum Photo was my third or fourth choice but I knew that he would go on the ground and we always thought that he would stay. His run at Tramore was not the usual sort of prep run for a Gold Cup but that was it because of the ground. We had him entered at Leopardstown at Christmas and the ground was just too firm and I knew that I would get ground at Tramore.

"Two weeks before Cheltenham, my mother starts getting ready and comes into top form over here - she really enjoys it. She nearly came in for a flu vaccination when we had to give it to all the horses, just in case she missed out."

Paul Townend (L), Willie Mullins (C) and Mullins' mother Maureen with the Gold Cup

Mullins was full of praise for jockey Townend, who hails from Midleton, Co Cork.

"I was delighted for Paul," he said. "It's fantastic to win the Gold Cup but, for Paul to ride it, that is the real result for me.

"Paul started off when he was 17 and has always been so natural and so good. He was riding as a claimer for me and won the Galway Hurdle for John Kiely. That really put him on the scene.

"He has just been unlucky that he is there alongside Ruby (Walsh) and, any time Ruby is free, Paul gets to ride the second horse. He is a fantastic rider and hopefully he might be champion jockey again this year.

"From an early stage, Paul had him in a rhythm jumping, with the reins relaxed and the horse doing it all. Every time he needed a squeeze, Paul was there to give him one and the horse responded. When you get into that sort of a rhythm in a race, it's fantastic, and you just hope you don't get any traffic problems.

"Really good credit to Paul and I am delighted for (owner) Marie and Joe Donnelly, who have put some commitment into our yard."

Townend said: "I can't believe it. I'm so grateful to Willie and all the owners. I'm in a privileged position to be riding all the horses I am riding. From the time I was an apprentice he has supported me. I'm just so grateful to give him his first Gold Cup.

"I actually got in a beautiful rhythm everywhere. I wasn't where I wanted to be over the first two fences, but turning down the back he got a couple of good jumps and everything just flowed for me.

"He jumped from fence to fence, he is a real warrior. It is just an unbelievable feeling. We thought staying was his forte and he showed that today.

"I was in a lovely position at every stage and like all races, if it is going to happen it will happen and it has happened today.

"Every single rider who takes out a licence wants to win a Gold Cup and to do it feels unbelievable."

Mullins was named top trainer at the Festival for the seventh time, edging Nicky Henderson on second places after they both finished with four winners.

Nico de Boinville was leading jockey with four winners while the Prestbury Cup was halved, Ireland and Great Britain both claiming 14 victories each.