Tornado Flyer created history at Kempton Park today when becoming the longest-priced winner in the history of the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase. The 28-1 chance beat the previous 25-1 record starting price achieved by French raider Nupsala back in 1987. It was a second King George victory for Ireland’s champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins, 20 years on from Florida Pearl in 2001 and an eighth Irish-trained winner overall of the three-mile Grade One contest.
With some of the more-fancied runners appearing to run below form, Tornado Flyer was delivered superbly by jockey Danny Mullins, the winning trainer’s nephew, in the final straight.
It was the winner’s better-fanced stablemate, Asterion Forlonge, that appeared to hold the only serious danger to the winner but he parted company with jockey Bryan Cooper at the final fence to leave Tornado Flyer to come home nine lengths clear of Clan Des Obeaux, the winner in 2018 and 2019. Saint Calvados was another three and a half lengths away in third with last year’s winner Frodon fourth this time around, another eight and a half lengths adrift. The two leading fancies Chantry House (3-1 Favourite) and Minella Indo (100-30) were both pulled-up.
Willie Mullins, speaking on the phone from Ireland, said: “I was totally surprised. John Turner, who has a share in the horse, was on to me to bring him over as he would like a runner on Boxing Day at Kempton. But I didn’t think we were going for a win. I thought we would be lucky if we got a place and those were the instructions I gave Danny - ride from the back and get all the prize money you can.
“We changed a few things with him this year and he seems to be improving as he has always promised but he never delivered in the second half of the season and maybe he is going to this time.
“John Turner is in charge of plans after getting me to bring him over. I’d imagine he would be entered in all those Grade One races. Maybe he is better going right handed but he has certainly just improved I think.
“Danny was just very cute on him and every time I looked at Danny in the race I was very happy where he was and how he was getting him to jump.
“You could see from six out Danny was looking at third place and he just kept biding his time. He rode a jockeys race and it just turned out well for him. It was very confident from Danny but that is him. He is never afraid.”
On Asterion Forlonge, who parted company with Bryan Cooper at the last, Mullins added: “It looked like he was destined for second place. Overall he ran so well there must be a huge race in him somewhere when he puts it all together again. There will be a really big day in him again if we can just keep him right.”
Danny Mullins, who was enjoying an amazing 347-1 double following his earlier victory today on Jacamar, said: “I knew we weren’t coming over here for a day out. I’d been lucky enough to have ridden this lad quite a bit and on his best form he was going to be in with a shout in a race like this. To win the way he did opens up a lot of new avenues. It is fantastic.
“Willie is a master for getting them ready for these big days. This is the King George and it is a day I’ll never forget. I thought I would be placed. He is a tricky little horse. He often misses a fence early. I said to Willie I wanted to jump off a few lengths closer today which would leave me in the position I wanted to be. Turning down the back for the second time, I just had loads of horse and I had to keep biding my time. I wouldn’t have minded if someone would have come with me a little longer to the last but he is a class horse and he put down his head and ran out a very impressive winner of a competitive race.
“That is as competitive a staying chase you are going to get bar the Gold Cup and he has gone and done it. We will enjoy today and have a dream about the future and Willie will decide what we do there. This year has been fantastic for me. I’ve had a lot of Grade One winners and a winner at Cheltenham - the King George has capped it off. These big days are what it is all about for riders, trainers and owners. You can’t do that without the horses underneath you.
“All credit to the rest of the team that put that in. Credit to Dermot and Lynsey they have missed Christmas at home but they’ve done a great job and I’m very thankful for it. Willie is straightforward to ride for and he is a top class trainer. From half way 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 and get too excited as it is a long way down here bu thankful he has done the job. I could hear something coming to me and my lad was having a look late on so I could have done with something to come to me but I bided my time and I picked my time to commit and he kept going all the way to the line.
“He had only had one run over three miles before and that didn’t go to plan but the way he came up the hill in the Ryanair at Cheltenham I was optimistic three miles would bring out the best in him.
“I’m the only Mullins that doesn’t drink so that throws a spanner in the works. Celebrations aren’t what it is about, it’s the feeling crossing the line is what it is all about for me.”
Ron Whatford, joint owner, said: “He has been an almost horse up until today. The one thing he does do is stay as at the end he just comes on and on and that’s why we wanted to go back to three miles with him.
“We made the biggest racket and I think everyone in the Panoramic lounge knew we were in there! If we are not on YouTube it will be a miracle. It is just staggering. We just wanted him to get round and make a decent fist of it. It was superb and Danny rode him the way he said he would before the race. We had a few quid each way on him as well.”
Fellow joint-owner Martin Dodd added: “In fairness, Willie said he needed three miles and he wanted to give him a go, but if you read all the reports he didn’t fancy him – he just fancied a bit of prize money. I just thought he finished superbly and it’s amazing.
“We come and watch this race every year anyway and when Willie told us he was going to be running we thought it was perfect as we’ll be there anyways! To be honest we were just here for the day as we just didn’t think he would run or do as well as he did, the finish was unbelievable.
“Willie’s view was that everyone keeps saying that he needs three miles and he was finishing his races really well, so we were just giving him a go over this trip and I wasn’t expecting a great deal in fairness. I think Willie was just waiting to see how he ran over three miles and what job he did, plus we got Danny to ride him too who we think is amazing. Willie’s track record with horses is just fantastic so we sent the horse to him and they’ve just done superbly in terms of picking races and how he places them. It’s all a bit surreal if I’m being honest.
“He cost us around £72,000 between all of us, so in terms of value for money you can’t get much better! We told all of our friends to have a small bet on him, but only each-way as the chances of him winning were very remote. A few of them will be having words with me now I’m sure!”
Paul Nicholls, who was responsbile for the second (Clan Des Obeaux), third (Saint Calvados) and fourth (Frodon) said: “I think Clan ran a super race there and he just got outstayed on that ground really from the back. He had been racing Frodon up front and Saint Calvados took him on around the turn and Harry (Cobden, jockey) just couldn’t fill his lungs up. They had to race and they both got a little bit tired and they both just got outstayed by Tornado Flyer. You could see what was going to happen turning in but they’ve all run mighty races on the ground and I’m thrilled with them all really.
“Now both Clan and Frodon have got a bit older they like that bit better ground and that bit of rain might just have made it just that bit more testing. When Clan runs at Aintree in the spring he’ll like that better ground, but he’s stayed and travelled really well and it won’t have been a lack of a run that beat him. He was ready and it wasn’t his day on that ground - it was probably more testing than you think as Bravemansgame’s time was 25 seconds slow.
“Saint Calvados ran a blinding race and was in front ten minutes too soon. He (jockey Gavin Sheehan) had been patient with him and then got a bit excited. It would have been better off if he’d have just sat and followed on through he might have been close to finishing second, but he ran a mighty race and showed enough promise to suggest there’s a really nice race in him.
“I think all three of those horses will be better on better ground, I’m not making excuses though and the best horse on the day won as always and that’s what it’s all about. I was just rueing that rain a little bit really.
“You say the Irish have the upper hand but we went there and won the Punchestown Gold Cup and Frodon went and won at Down Royal, so in balance it’s all about having the right horse on the day – that’s just the way it is and we’ll hope to go back there and have another good day.”
Minella Indo, winner of the 2021 WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup, was pulled-up before three out by jockey Rachael Blackmore who reported: “It was disappointing. He was beaten a long way from home so we will just have to see.”
Nicky Henderson, trainer of 3-1 favourite Chantry House, who was pulled-up at the 12th fence, said: “He hated that groiund. It was always a worry that a track like that might not be his cup of tea as he is a genuine stayer. I would think they would be saying the same about Minella Indo. It is just not his track. Kempton is a specialist track in a funny way.
“As Nico said he just pulled him up as he was off it from the word go. It wasn’t as if he got to three out and finished sixth. His game was over very early on. You have to just forget about it. Unfortunately it is sad but you have to just get over it and train him for the Gold Cup.”
Henderson gained some small compensation when Marie’s Rock landed the concluding Ladbrokes We Play Together Handicap Hurdle by seven lengths.
Henderson said of the 15-2 winner: “I’ve always thought she was going to be a very good mare and things went badly wrong, with this and that going wrong.
“Life hasn’t been easy, but they’ve been very patient with her and she’s jumped like a good filly again today. I’m not sure where she will go next but I suspect that is the right trip, so it’s a case of fiddling around in things like Listed Mares races as I feel the handicapper could well give her a bit of a belt.
“Adrian (Heskin, winning jockey) said that she’s quite hard on it, so I don’t think she’d want much further but it’s more important that she’s back more than anything else.”