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Kemboy gallops to Irish Gold Cup glory

Kemboy made every yard of the running to win the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.

Agonisingly caught close home by A Plus Tard in the Savills Chase at Christmas, this time he was allowed to dominate throughout.

Ridden by Danny Mullins, with Paul Townend preferring the claims of the unplaced Melon, Kemboy only briefly looked in danger on the run to the second last.

Rachael Blackmore moved the favourite Minella Indo to within a length of Kemboy but hit the fence hard, handing back the initiative to Kemboy and he never looked likely to relinquish it.

Willie Mullins, who has mopped up the Grade One contests over the weekend, had feared the ground would be too soft for the nine-year-old, but he did not look inconvenienced in the slightest.

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Kemboy jumped the last in fine style and kept up the gallop to win by two lengths from The Storyteller, with Delta Work third.

Paddy Power cut the winner to 10-1 from 14s for the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Mullins said: “That’s fantastic for Danny and his owners.

“He’s really surprised me on that ground. The chase track is a lot better than the hurdle track and they went up the middle, which is better again.

“I thought all the rain we had might have affected that fella, but he seems to be getting stronger with age.

“I had Paul (Townend) down on this guy and Patrick (Mullins) down to ride the other guy (Melon), but Paul said he’d like to ride Melon.

“Different tactics didn’t work on Melon, I’d say he just likes to enjoy himself and get on with it. Melon keeps his best for Cheltenham, but hasn’t managed to get to the lollipop in front yet (four times second at the Festival).

“We’ll have a think with (owner) Mr Donnelly about Melon, maybe something like the Ryanair might suit, and let him enjoy himself from the beginning – that might suit him better.

“Danny got some great leaps out of the winner, I only spotted one mistake on the first circuit. Rachael came after him down the back, but his jumping got him out of it.

“I’m very pleased to win another Paddy Power Gold Cup.”

Mullins admitted a switch back to smaller obstacles at Cheltenham remains a possibility, despite his victory.

He added: “He’s entered in the Stayers’ Hurdle as well as the Gold Cup, as I’m just not sure if fences are his thing around Cheltenham. We were all wondering if we should try something different as Cheltenham hasn’t been his luckiest spot.”

Danny Mullins said: “Myself and David (Mullins, recently retired jockey) were chatting after the race at Christmas and he said he’s not fast, but is a great galloper and this is a ride he would probably have had, so it’s thanks to him that I am on board today.

“It’s great to be winning these high-level races at the big meetings, it’s what it’s all about and riding a good horse like this is fantastic.”

Minella Indo headlines five contenders for Irish Gold Cup glory

Minella Indo heads a small but select field of five runners declared for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.

Henry de Bromhead’s charge is a short-priced favourite to bounce back from an uncharacteristic fall in the Savills Chase over the course and distance in December and reaffirm his claims for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.

The eight-year-old is reopposed by three other horses who contested the Savills Chase in Kemboy, Melon and Delta Work.

The Willie Mullins-trained pair of Kemboy and Melon finished a close-up second and third behind De Bromhead’s A Plus Tard just under six weeks ago, while Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work – who won the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup last season – unseated his rider.

With stable jockey Paul Townend siding with Melon, Danny Mullins takes over in the saddle from his newly-retired cousin David Mullins aboard Kemboy.

He said: “He’s got a good chance in it and it’s great to renew the partnership with him.

“I actually rode him on his chasing debut in Fairyhouse a few years ago, when he ran a good race to finish second to Sutton Place. He’s won plenty of good races since then and seems in good order, so hopefully he’ll run a big race.

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“Ruth Dudfield usually rides him in all his work and seems pleased with him.”

The quintet is completed by Elliott’s second string The Storyteller, who was last seen finishing second behind Flooring Porter in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle.

Monkfish is a hot favourite for the Flogas Novice Chase
Monkfish is a hot favourite for the Flogas Novice Chase (PA)

Potential Gold Cup horses of the future contest the preceding Flogas Novice Case, which stages a third clash between the Mullins-trained Monkfish and Paul Nolan’s stable star Latest Exhibition.

Monkfish denied Latest Exhibition by a neck when landing the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, but was more authoritative when winning a Grade One over fences at this venue in December.

The Rich Ricci-owned seven-year-old is odds-on to confirm his superiority, despite dropping back from three miles to an extended two miles and five furlongs.

Mullins also saddles Asterion Forlonge, who needs to bounce back after successive falls, as well as Janidil.

Gordon Elliott’s Andy Dufresne also features in a nine-strong field.

Mullins also houses the red-hot favourite for the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle in Appreciate It, who was a hugely impressive winner over the course and distance last time and already heads ante-post lists for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The son of Jeremy is joined by no less than five stable companions in Blue Lord, N’golo, Galopin Des Champs, Mr Coldstone and Hook Up.

Elliott’s Ballyadam, De Bromhead’s Irascible and Paddy Corkery’s Master McShee are among the opposition.

The first of four Grade Ones on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival is the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle, in which Elliott’s Quilixios puts his unbeaten record on the line.

Mullins is represented by Ha D’or, Saint Sam and Youmdor, but his new recruit French Aseel has not been declared.

Willie Mullins at his yard earlier this week
Willie Mullins at his yard earlier this week (Morgan Treacy/INPHO/PA)

Mullins again appears to hold all the aces in the concluding N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares I.N.H. Flat Race – with five of the 11 runners hailing from Closutton.

The trainer’s son Patrick has sided with Brandy Love over Brooklynn Glory (Barry O’Neill), Purple Mountain (Tom Hamilton), Take Tea (Derek O’Connor) and Grangee (Jody Townend).

The big danger appears to be Hollymount, who makes her first start for Elliott having recently been snapped up for £300,000.

Change of tactics on the cards for Irish Gold Cup hope Melon

Willie Mullins may implement a change of tactics for Melon in Sunday’s Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup, the headline event on the second day of the Dublin Racing Festival.

The nine-year-old has the unwanted record of finishing second at the last four Cheltenham Festivals, hitting the bar in the Supreme and twice in the Champion Hurdle before being edged out by a nose in last year’s Marsh Novices’ Chase.

He gained another near-miss in the Savills Chase at Christmas when A Plus Tard finished with a real flourish to scupper both third-placed Melon and stablemate Kemboy, who took second.

Willie Mullins overseeing his string on the gallops
Willie Mullins overseeing his string on the gallops (Morgan Treacy/INPHO/PA Wire)

“I was thinking one of them – please. If either of them had fallen at the last you’d have been thinking how far, but they didn’t. They probably didn’t help each other and I think we’ll probably change tactics with Melon,” said Mullins.

“Up to now we’ve been putting cheekpieces on Melon, putting go faster stripes on him so he could be more competitive over two miles and two and a half.

“You’d have to think if we change tactics a bit, it might suit us better.”

The recent weather has not been in Kemboy’s favour, but he will need a new jockey following the retirement of David Mullins.

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The trainer said: “He seems to like Leopardstown, but the only worry is the rain – they got a huge amount over the weekend.”

Mullins would have liked a third runner in the race but Castlebawn West, winner of a big handicap with top weight over Christmas, is out for the remainder of the season.

“Castlebawn West is unfortunately out, he split a pastern during the week. He’s up in hospital now with five new screws in. So he’s out for the season, but hopefully he’s back next season,” said Mullins.

Arguably Mullins’ banker of the meeting is due to run in the Flogas Novice Chase – the impressive Monkfish – although who will join him has still to be decided.

Monkfish with Holly Conte on board at Willie Mullins' Closutton yard
Monkfish with Holly Conte on board at Willie Mullins’ Closutton yard (Morgan Treacy/INPHO/PA Wire)

“I suppose Monkfish is the obvious one, Colreevy won’t go she had a hard race the other day. Janadil I’d be keen to have a crack there, Franco De Port and Energumene will run over two miles,” said Mullins.

“I didn’t run Asterion (Forlonge) over three miles yesterday so he could go here, he’s won a Grade One there over two miles. I know he jumps a little bit right, but we might try different tactics on him. It’s a bigger concern he fell at the first the last day than jumping right!

“Monkfish looks a real natural. All this rain will suit him and two-five won’t be an issue.”

A new recruit to the yard heads Mullins’ team in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle in French Aseel, a winner for Ellmarie Holden first time out.

“French Aseel looked very good at Christmas and the form got franked again yesterday. He’s a lovely type and has settled in well. I’m pleased with him so we’ll see how he goes during the week,” said Mullins.

“Youmdor got a hard fall. On the day I thought he was quite knocked about, but he came home that night and ate up and he’s been fine since. I’ll have to think about whether I’m going to run him or not, I’ll see how he works this week.

“He was going well and would have been the shortest price in running, he just changed his mind when Paul (Townend) asked him.”

Ha D’or and Saint Sam could also run.

“Ha D’or was having his first run over hurdles at Christmas, he’s sure to improve a huge bit. We just wanted to see how he could jump and he jumped well. He’ll be a nice horse some day, but this might be too early in his career,” reasoned Mullins.

“I think Saint Sam ran better than his finishing position, he got the worst run of the race and he’s improving all the time. He’s got ground to make up on Zanahiyr, but I do think he’s improving.”

The Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle is the next stop for Appreciate It, current favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He could be joined by Mr Coldstone.

“Appreciate It is in great shape. I was hugely taken with the performance he put in at Christmas,” said Mullins.

“Gauloise will run in the Solerina Hurdle next Monday, but Mr Coldstone impressed me with what he did down in Tramore, so maybe he’ll take his chance and we’ll see what he is.”