Cabaret Queen hangs on to land thrilling Kerry National for Willie Mullins

The finish was as good as it gets – it was just a pity there were not more in attendance to see it. 

The Willie Mullins-trained Cabaret Queen turned into the Listowel straight deserving of being roared home by her loyal band of owners, but instead toughed out one of the most memorable Kerry Nationals to an eerie silence.

The darling of owners Syndicates Racing, Cabaret Queen made all and put in an exemplary round of jumping under Paul Townend but, after being five lengths clear on the run to two out, had her lead eradicated after the last and on first glance appeared to have been reeled in by the fast-finishing 40-1 shot Moyhenna. 

That opinion was backed up by Mullins after the race, who admitted he’d have settled for a draw coming down from the stands, fully sure that the Denis Hogan-trained mare had denied his eight-year-old.

But Hogan’s loss was the champion trainer’s gain, with the Kerry National heading back to Closutton for a third time by a nose. 

“Long time no see,” was how Mullins greeted the press, coolly acknowledging the fact that this was just the second time the trainer has ventured to the track since racing resumed.

Mullins said: “Paul set out to do what he did and both rider and horse were very brave.

“I don't think she missed a fence, and she made up lengths and half-lengths where it mattered. 

“Paul said to me she hadn't one iota left, it was a last-gasp win, and being so brave, it would have been hard to lose it.”

He added: “It's tough on the runner-up, too, who ran a cracker. I'd have taken a draw coming down from the stands as I thought we were beaten.”

Asked if Cabaret Queen will chart a path back towards Limerick to defend her Munster National crown, Mullins said: "She was second here last year over two and a half miles before going for the Munster National, but it wouldn't be my first thought to go back for that race."

He added: "She had a very hard race there and I'd rather pick something further away and give her an easier time. Going back into a handicap might be tough. I'll look at Graded or conditions races if I can."

Two of the winner's syndicate members were lucky enough to have been at Listowel to witness Cabaret Queen’s victory in the flesh.

It was at Tramore earlier this summer that Mullins quipped he was attending as a director, not a trainer, and that he was standing in solidarity with owners, who were only welcomed back to racecourses in Ireland on Monday.

Mullins praised the efforts of Horse Racing Ireland in keeping the show on the road these past few months.

He said: “It's great HRI has managed to keep racing on, but it's disappointing more people were not allowed to be here, especially for the likes of Listowel, but we have to be thankful for what we have.

"It was tremendous that two of the syndicate members were here, and I didn't want to miss the Kerry National."