Tornado Flyer claims shock win in the King George VI Chase as the 28-1 shot finishes nine lengths clear of Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton
- Tornado Flyer finished line nine lengths clear of Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton
- It was the biggest shock in the 84-year history of the King George VI Chase
- Winning jockey Danny Mullins completed a double on the card with Jacamar
Tornado Flyer might have produced the biggest shock in the 84-year history of the King George VI Chase with a 28-1 win but in one sense it was no surprise at all.
Who else in 2021 was going to win the final big prize of the jumps year than an Irish-trained horse, even if it was the first winner of the Kempton showpiece from across the Irish Sea since Kicking King in 2005. After all, 23 of the 28 winners at the one-sided Cheltenham Festival were trained in Ireland, and the Grand National went the same way.
The Betfair Chase at Haydock, previously the biggest prize over fences this season, had also been shipped back to Ireland last month by A Plus Tard.
Tornado Flyer produced the biggest shock in the 84-year history of the King George VI Chase
Disappointingly from a British point of view, Tornado Flyer, who passed the finish line nine lengths clear of Paul Nicholls-trained dual winner Clan Des Obeaux, had never won over as far as three miles before yesterday and went into the race off the back of a nine-race losing streak stretching back to December 2019.
Winning jockey Danny Mullins, 29, who completed a double on the card with Jacamar, had a point as he said you always have a chance when you are riding a horse trained by his uncle Willie. But even Ireland’s all-conquering champion trainer had hardly gone into the £250,000 race bursting with confidence.
Speaking from Leopardstown, where he had a treble which included Ferny Hollow in the feature Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase, Mullins admitted Tornado Flyer had only run at the insistence of John Turner, who owns the gelding with fellow Brits Martin Dodd and Ron Whatford.
Mullins added that Turner himself had suffered a Covid-related distant view of proceedings. Mullins, who also won the King George in 2001 with Florida Pearl, said: ‘I thought he might run a good race but I couldn’t see him in the first four. Danny gave him a very cute ride. I told him to ride from the back and try to pick up as much prizemoney as possible.
Tornado Flyer passed the finish line nine lengths clear of Clan Des Obeaux at Kempton
‘John said to bring him over. He couldn’t even go into the racecourse and had to watch from the last furlong in the car park because he had his elderly parents with him and was afraid to bring them into the crowd with Covid.’
It could have been an even better result for Mullins. His other runner Asterion Forlonge looked booked for second place when falling at the last fence.
Virtually the only worry Danny Mullins was when Tornado Flyer, who is now 16-1 for the Gold Cup, awkwardly dived at the first fence.
It was the biggest win in Britain for the teetotal jockey who has a lot of family form to live up to with his nephews being Grand National winner David, Ireland’s champion amateur jockey Patrick and up-and-coming trainer Emmet.
Danny said: ‘From halfway down the back he was cantering. Some of his best form is at two and a half miles so I had to be conscious not to cut my own throat.
‘I’m the only Mullins who doesn’t drink so that throws a spanner in the works. I have put in a lot of hard work for days like this and the feeling you get when crossing the line is better than anything you can find in the bottom of a bottle. It has been a fantastic year for me, I’ve had multiple winners at the big festivals, a Cheltenham Festival winner, and to cap it off with a King George is great.’
Mullins completed a double on the card with Jacamar in the Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase
If Ireland was going to win the race it seemed likely it would be with Henry de Bromhead-trained Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Minella Indo.
But he was pulled up before the third last fence by Rachael Blackmore after dropping away on the second circuit. By then Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House, who was backed into 3-1 favourite, had already checked out. It left the race as Paul Nicholls v Ireland in the home straight and the 12-time winning trainer was responsible for the second, third and fourth.
Last year’s winners Bryony Frost and Frodon faded into fourth while third-placed Saint Calvados cruised into the lead jumping the last in the back straight before hitting the wall. That left dual winner and last year’s third Clan des Obeaux, who led into the home straight, but he had nothing more to give under Harry Cobden.
Nicholls said: ‘Now both Clan and Frodon have got a bit older they like that bit better ground. Saint Calvados ran a blinding race and was in front 10 minutes too soon.
‘He (jockey Gavin Sheehan) had been patient with him and then got a bit excited. I’m not making excuses though and the best horse on the day won.’
Consolation for Nicholls was the winning performance of Bravemansgame in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase. He has been described as a ‘special horse’ and his main target is the 2022 King George.
Beating the Irish here next year however will be the true test of that tag.