Kemboy gives Willie Mullins an 11th Irish Gold Cup success

The champion trainer won nine of the 15 races up for grabs during the weekend

Willie Mullins's stranglehold on the Dublin Racing Festival was sealed on Sunday when Kemboy gave him an 11th success in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup.

Victory in the €200,000 feature of Irish jump racing’s shop-window weekend highlighted a remarkable 5,841-1 five-timer for the champion trainer on Sunday who scooped nine of the 15 races up for grabs during the weekend action at Leopardstown.

The haul included six of the eight Grade 1 races. Mullins has now saddled winners in 23 of the 60 races run over the four years of the festival.

The sport’s dominant figure said the results over the two days compared to any accomplishment in his record breaking career although Covid-19 protocols ruled out any extravagant Plan A celebration. “Plan B is at home in the kitchen. All welcome - protocols permitting!” he joked.


Paul Townend did the steering on the impressive Grade 1 novice pair Monkfish (Flogas Novice Chase) and Appreciate It (Chanelle Novice Hurdle) while Conor McNamara popped up on the 40-1 Maze Runner in a handicap hurdle.

Townend’s sister, Jody, supplied a perfect finale with victory in the bumper on the 18-1 outsider Grangee.

However Danny Mullins stepped in for the biggest success of his career on Kemboy who made all the running to beat The Storyteller and Delta Work with the 13-8 favourite Minella Indo only fourth of the five runners.

Discarded by Townend in favour of Melon, Kemboy went one better than at Christmas when nabbed on the line by A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase.

He was ridden by David Mullins on that occasion but the Grand National winner's shock retirement from the saddle let his cousin in for a landmark victory.

“Myself and David were chatting after the race at Christmas and he said he’s not fast but is a great galloper. This is a ride he probably would have had so it’s thanks to him that I’m on board today,” said the winning jockey.

In contrast 10 previous wins in the race meant it was business as usual for his uncle although by any standard Mullins’s grip on the prestigious weekend action was vice-like.

With just five weeks to the Cheltenham festival it was a chilling reminder to his opposition of the strength in depth he can call on. The luxury of having reigning champion Al Boum Photo waiting in the wings meant Mullins revealed he may re-route Kemboy from another Gold Cup attempt to the Stayers Hurdle instead.

It's nearly four years since the horse who gave Ruby Walsh a fairytale farewell at Punchestown in 2019 last ran over flights. However Mullins's run of form meant bookmakers installed Kemboy into the Stayers market at 16-1.

Two previous tilts at the Gold Cup have ended tamely and the trainer said: “I’m not sure whether fences around Cheltenham are his thing. We’re wondering whether we should try something different.”

He added: “I’m delighted for Danny to win a Grade 1 at this festival. Danny was positive but he is positive in everything he does. The glass is always half full.”

In contrast Minella Indo drifted in the Gold Cup market after fluffing his lines in attempting to follow up Saturday’s spectacular Irish Champion Hurdle victory by his stable companion Honeysuckle.

Rachael Blackmore didn't look happy from before the second last but a mistake there proved too much to overcome. Admirable as Kemboy's fourth Grade 1 career victory was it was easy to suspect Paul Townend might have been only half joking about Monkfish having run in the wrong race.

He too made all the running in the Flogas but there was a verve and panache to 1-2 favourite’s 11 length rout of old rival Latest Exhibition that was irresistible.

Monkfish is odds-on in some lists to stretch his unbeaten record to four in Cheltenham’s Festival Chase, formerly the RSA.

“I was more impressed with him today than any day. It looks like he’s getting better with each run. This fella has the same potential (as Al Boum Photo and Florida Pearl.) Everything is so effortless and he has huge scope no matter how he meets a fence,” Mullins declared.

In contrast Appreciate It wasn’t as visually impressive as he was at Christmas but Townend was still happy with the 1-3 favourite.

“He wasn’t as breath-taking as he was at Christmas but he ground it out which is the sign of a good horse. He didn’t jump with as much fluency and was never in control of the race like I thought I could have been. But the good ones get it done,” he said.

Grangee could be part of Mullins’s Cheltenham bumper team after her neck defeat of Party Central in the mares bumper.

Typically though it is her stable companion Kilcruit who is a raging hot favourite for that after his spectacular success on Saturday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column