Kemboy sealed success in the Clonmel Oil Chase with a flying leap at the final fence to defeat last year’s winner Alpha Des Obeaux.
With the result still up for debate – despite Paul Townend seemingly travelling the better on the Wille Mullins-trained favourite – he flung himself at the obstacle and took two lengths out of Gordon Elliott’s charge.
The winner of a valuable handicap at the Punchestown Festival when last seen, the six-year-old was making his reappearance, whereas Alpha Des Obeaux had the benefit of already having a run, although Kemboy was getting 6lb from Elliott’s runner.
Fresh early on, the 11-8 chance never looked in any serious danger, albeit as the five runners turned into the straight none could be ruled out with conviction.
As the front two began to pull clear, though, it was all down to the jumping and Kemboy’s huge final effort made sure he began the season in the best possible fashion, coming clear to win by three lengths.
Mullins will now look to the Ladbrokes Trophy – formerly the Hennessy Gold Cup – at Newbury on December 1 for the Supreme Horse Racing Club-owned gelding.
He said: “I was delighted with him, because I didn’t think he could be that straight and I wondered was I running him too quick before the Ladbrokes. He was very fresh and very free and that was smart to do that today.
“I imagine he goes to the Ladbrokes now and I’m told he has a mandatory 4lb penalty for winning this.”
Explaining why Townend was in the saddle and not Ruby Walsh, who has recently returned from injury, Mullins said: “I had Paul on the two chasers today and Ruby on the hurdlers, that’s all, and with the big weekend ahead that was the only reason.
“Paul was good on this fellow before and I don’t know if there is a queue to ride Camelia De Cotte (in the next)!
“Paul is going well in the championship, too, so I’d be delighted to see him champion again, but who knows, as it’s an open year.”
Mullins and Townend left with both feature races in their pockets after the aforementioned Camelia De Cotte survived a few scares to win the T.A. Morris Memorial Irish EBF Mares Chase.
Sent off the 7-4 favourite in the absence of Cheltenham Festival winner Shattered, Love who was a late withdrawal, her backers will have been cursing when she slipped into an early fence, with Townend performing miracles to stay in the saddle.
Once back on an even keel she was soon tanking along again and while Timeforwest moved up menacingly, she never quite got on terms.
Mullins said: “That was good performance from Paul – the ground is very slippy and she slipped right into the second fence. She seemed to be fine for it, but kept going and slipped into it.
“He said she was a lot happier when she was galloping in front.
“She had enough in reserve to hold on from what looked a very threatening Timeforwest – I thought she was coming to beat us, so it was good she pulled out more to win.
“We’ll keep her to mares’ chases and I think she can go out in trip as well.”