WATCH - Total Recall pounces late to land Ladbrokes Trophy for Willie Mullins 15 years after Be My Royal woe
Total Recall ended the Irish drought with a thrilling victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury.
The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old got up close home to collar Whisper and become the first Irish winner in the prestigious staying handicap, formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup, since Bright Highway in 1980.
It was also sweeter for Mullins as his Be My Royal passed the first post in 2002, only to be subsequently disqualified after testing positive to a banned substance caused by contaminated feed.
Singlefarmpayment was just getting into contention when he fell three out and Whisper hit the front with Total Recall hot on his heels.
Nicky Henderson's runner looked like landing the big prize, but Paul Townend got a great run out of the 9-2 favourite to get up and win by a neck. Regal Encore was nine lengths away in third, with Braqueur D'Or fourth.
.@WillieMullinsNH trained Total Recall 9/2f wins the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase @NewburyRacing— TV3 Sport (@TV3SportIreland) December 2, 2017
Ending a 30 year wait for an Irish winner in the race (the Hennessy Gold Cup)
Racing from Sandown, Saturday 9 December live @TV3Ireland pic.twitter.com/TN7uxQFoM0
Mullins paid tribute to Total Recall's former trainer Sandra Hughes.
"I think a lot of the credit must go to Sandra Hughes, who used her father's (Dessie Hughes) training methods and let this horse progress very slowly," he said. "Sandra retired, we just got the benefit of it.
"Paul was fantastic. He was very cool. I thought he was beaten going to the last, but he switched sides and got a different run on the other side, it worked a treat.
"It's a tough race for the Irish to win, why I don't know."
Mullins revealed he will put Total Recall in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
He said: "He will definitely get an entry in the Gold Cup after that run. By the time he runs again I imagine the entries will have closed."
Townend said: "I was confident enough I'd got there without wanting to be too confident.
"I thought I'd thrown it away when I let him pop the second-last and let the other horse go across him, but he's as tough as old boots.
"He had a lovely racing weight today. He'd had to improve a lot again I'd imagine to be a Gold Cup horse, but he's doing nothing wrong."
Henderson said of the luckless Whisper, who also had to settle for second at Cheltenham and Aintree last season: "You cry for the horse and I would cry for myself if I had to. When I kept beating him with Might Bite last year, I did feel guilty. Here he has run his heart out.
"We nearly thought we'd nabbed a race that is very special to us. You have got to be very proud of the horse and Davy (Russell) gave him the most fantastic ride. He was never anywhere except the perfect place.
"He didn't stop, the other one went faster. The only stupid thing is blame Henderson for getting him a 4lb penalty (winning at Kempton last month), that was the stupid thing. I will hold my hands up, I got him a 4lb penalty.
"We will have to sit down and think. Something like a Cotswold Chase could be fun."
Coneygree, the 2015 Gold Cup winner, was one of those pulled up.
His trainer Mark Bradstock said: 'Nico (de Boinville, jockey) said he may need wind-op, but other than that he's fine at the moment.
"We thought we had him on-song and jumping well, but we have to go back to the drawing board.
"He's been an absolute superstar and owes us nothing."