Willie Mullins was as surprised as anyone after Tornado Flyer became the biggest-priced winner in the long and illustrious history of the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase on Sunday.
Tornado Flyer is a shock winner of the Grade 1 @Ladbrokes King George VI Chase, blowing his rivals away in a dramatic renewal ???— Kempton Park Racecourse (@kemptonparkrace) December 26, 2021
It's a second success in the race for trainer @WillieMullinsNH and a double on the card for @dan2231 ??
Asterion Forlonge is up and ok ?? pic.twitter.com/IqE8nHjhzJ
It is 20 years since the hugely popular Florida Pearl got the better of triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate to provide Ireland’s perennial champion trainer with his only previous success in the Kempton Park showpiece.
Two decades on, Mullins fired a twin assault, with Asterion Forlonge very much the stable’s chief hope having looked the most likely winner of the John Durkan at Punchestown before unseating Bryan Cooper three from home.
While not beaten far, Tornado Flyer was only fifth in the same Grade 1 and he was 28/1 to strike gold in the hands of the trainer’s nephew, Danny Mullins.
With last year’s winner Frodon adopting his customary pacesetting role from flag-fall, Mullins played a waiting game for much of the three-mile contest before moving into the slipstream of the leaders.
Tornado Flyer took over before two out and with Asterion Forlonge coming down again at the last when seemingly booked for second, he passed the post with nine lengths in hand over dual King George winner Clan Des Obeaux.
Mullins senior stayed at home to saddle a strong team at Leopardstown, where he enjoyed three winners.
He said: “I was totally surprised. John Turner, who has a share in the horse, was on to me to bring him over as he said he’d like a runner and I said ‘why not?’.
“John 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 and was afraid to bring them into the crowd with Covid. It’s a fantastic day for him.
“I thought we’d be lucky if he could run into the places and that was the instructions I gave Danny – to ride from the back and get all the prize-money you can.
“Danny was very cute on him. Every time I looked at Danny I was very happy with where he was and he was getting him to jump. You could see from five or six out that he was going to run a big race.”
Mullins is keeping his fingers crossed his upward trajectory continues in the new year, adding: “My memory of him is that he disimproves from his first run every year. We changed a few things with him this year and he seems to be improving.
“He always promised, but never delivered in the second half of the season. Maybe he’s going to this time.
“John Turner is in charge of plans after getting me to bring him over, but I imagine he’ll be entered in all those Grade 1 races. Maybe he’s just better going right-handed, I don’t know.”
Of Asterion Forlonge, Mullins said: “It looked like he was destined for second place, but he ran so well that there must be a huge race in him somewhere. When he puts it all together there’s going to be a really big day in him, if we can keep him right.”
The winning rider was completing a double on the day, having struck earlier on Jacamar for what was his first win at the track.
He said: “Winning a King George is something you dream about. You look at the likes of Kauto Star and the other horses that have won it. For Tornado Flyer to go and put in a performance like that is magic.
?? "I did think Tornado Flyer would run a big race."@dan2231 discusses Tornado Flyer's victory in the King George VI Chase to cap a special day at @kemptonparkrace with two winners from as many rides ?? pic.twitter.com/IFqdpp5UXr— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 26, 2021
"I got into a good position early and he travelled into the race very well. I just wanted to keep saving a bit as it’s a long way down the straight here and thankfully I had a willing partner, which is what it’s all about.
“I knew I wasn’t out of it – I was cautiously optimistic that he’d run a good race. On the best of his form it’s in there and when he gets it all together he’s a proper good horse. He’s proved that today in such a competitive race.
“I was hopeful he’d stay and any time you’re riding for Willie in a race like this you have a right chance.
“You look at everything the Mullins’ have achieved, I’m delighted to be part of the family.”