Next stop Newbury for Kemboy as Mullins completes Clonmel double
Kemboy sealed victory in yesterday's Clonmel Oil Chase with a brilliant jump at the final fence to defeat last year's winner Alpha Des Obeaux.
With the result still up for debate - despite Paul Townend seemingly travelling the better on the Willie Mullins-trained favourite - he flung himself at the obstacle and took two lengths out of Gordon Elliott's charge.
The winner of a valuable handicap at the Punchestown Festival when last seen, the six-year-old was making his reappearance, whereas Alpha Des Obeaux had the benefit of already having a run, although Kemboy was getting 6lb from Elliott's runner.
Fresh early on, the 11/8 market leader never looked in any danger, even if none of the five runners could be ruled out as they turned for home.
As the front two began to pull clear, though, it was all down to the jumping and Kemboy's huge final effort made sure he began the season in the best possible fashion in a three-length win.
Mullins will now look to the Ladbrokes Trophy (formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup) at Newbury on December 1 - which he won last year with Total Recall - for the Supreme Horse Racing Club-owned gelding.
"I was delighted with him," said the champion trainer. "Because I didn't think he could be that straight and I wondered was I running him too quick before the Ladbrokes. He was very fresh and very free and that was smart to do that today.
"I imagine he goes to the Ladbrokes now and I'm told he has a mandatory 4lb penalty for winning this."
Explaining why Townend was in the saddle and not Ruby Walsh, who has recently returned from injury, Mullins said: "I had Paul on the two chasers today and Ruby on the hurdlers, that's all, and with the big weekend ahead that was the only reason.
"Paul is going well in the championship, too, so I'd be delighted to see him champion again, but who knows, as it's an open year."
Mullins and Townend left with both feature races in their pockets after the aforementioned Camelia De Cotte survived a few scares to win the T.A. Morris Memorial EBF Mares Chase.
Sent off the 7/4 favourite in the absence of Cheltenham winner Shattered Love, a late withdrawal, her backers will have been cursing when she slipped into an early fence, with Townend performing miracles to stay in the saddle. Once back on an even keel she was soon tanking along and while Timeforwest moved up menacingly, she never got on terms.
"That was a good performance from Paul," said Mullins. "The ground is very slippy and she slipped into the second fence. She seemed to be fine for it, but kept going and slipped into it.
"He said she was a lot happier when she was galloping in front. She had enough in reserve to hold on from what looked a very threatening Timeforwest - I thought she was coming to beat us so it was good she pulled out more. We'll keep her to mares' chases and she can go out in trip as well."
Gordon Elliott was another trainer in double-winning form, a brace that was initiated by the smooth success of Roaring Bull which justified 8/11 favouritism under Davy Russell in the Clonmel Hurdle over two miles.
The Cullentra handler's short-priced brace was completed by the impressive victory of Acronym (1/2) which made all the running in the bumper to record a facile six-length victory from Summer Hill in the hands of Lisa O'Neill.