Kempes is the new name in the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup picture after running out a decisive winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Willie Mullins has a fantastic record in Ireland’s premier race – but Kempes was only the stable second-string until Cooldine was ruled out at the 11th hour.
David Casey gave his mount a beautifully patient ride of a fast early gallop.
The Listener was left in front with a mile to run but Paul Carberry took the bold decision to kick on with China Rock four out. On the approach to the last he was a spent force, but Kempes was still going great guns.
Last year’s winner Joncol and the resurgent Glencove Marina emerged as threats, but Casey kept the 5-1 shot up to his work to beat the latter by four lengths.
Tragically, Nicky Richards’ Money Trix was pulled up on the first circuit, suffering a serious injury and later put down, while Glencove Marina collapsed and died 50 yards past the line.
The winner was inserted into the Gold Cup betting at 25-1 by William Hill.
Mullins said: “I’m delighted for the horse, his owner and especially his jockey as he gave him a terrific ride.
“I’d imagine he’ll go for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next and better ground should suit too – the ground might not be as bad as we thought today.”
Victor Chandler went 40-1 for the Gold Cup but were immediately forced to trim that to 25s after sustained support.
Jessica Harrington’s Bostons Angel (8-1) notched his second Grade One victory in the Dr P.J. Moriarty Chase in an eventful race.
The race changed in complexion at the second-last when the Mullins-trained Quel Esprit took a crashing fall and in turn hampering his stablemate, the favourite Mikael D’Haguenet, who was stopped to a walk.
That left Bostons Angel and Magnanimity fighting it out in front as they had done the whole way, but then the jolly rallied and had a chance again at the last.
However, his exertions had taken their toll and as he faded, Bostons Angel just fended off Dessie Hughes’ runner under Robbie Power to win by a head.
Harrington said: “He has now won two Grade Ones and is entitled to run in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.”
The day got better for Harrington and Power when Oscars Well (7-1) backed up his Grade One win at Navan with a very impressive display in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle.
Having tracked Shot From The Hip and Hidden Universe into the straight, Power kicked on before the last.
A spring-heeled leap put the race to bed and he powered clear of his rivals, with Mullins’ even-money favourite Zaidpour staying on at one pace to claim second, having been one of the first of the big guns off the bridle.
Oscars Wells is now 7-1 from 20s with William Hill for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle next month.
Harrington said: “Oscars Well travelled really well in his race – I couldn’t believe how easy he was going and went away under hands and heels. The Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham is the next logical step.”
Mullins said of his vanquished favourites: “I was disappointed with Zaidpour and Mikael D’Haguenet today. I don’t know what to do with either next, but might try a few different things.
“I’ve no comment on their next races and will spend a week or two thinking about plans.”