Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 21 January 2017

'Champagne' flows on comeback as Mullins and Ruby toast treble

Thomas Kelly

Published 25/11/2016 | 02:30

Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile
Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile

Willie Mullins is not planning to rush Champagne Fever back to the top table after his triumphant return to action at Thurles.

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Having been sidelined since April 2015, the Boomerang Horse & Country Store Chase presented the dual Cheltenham Festival hero with the ideal opportunity to make his eagerly-awaited comeback and he was sent off an 11/8 chance in the hands of Ruby Walsh.

After travelling and jumping with his trademark zest in the two-and-three-quarter-mile contest, Champagne Fever moved to the lead in the straight before Jim Culloty's 2014 Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere (25/1), also off the track for the best part of 600 days, threw down a challenge.

The long-absent pair settled down to fight it out after the last and Champagne Fever had enough in reserve to take the Listed prize by a head. "He ran a good race for his first run back, which he always does," said Mullins. "I'll probably look for a similar race for him next over two-and-a-half (miles). I think the John Durkan might come too soon and I might look for something easier than that."

Champagne Fever was the star turn in a treble for the champion trainer and jockey.

Exciting

Bellow Mome (2/1) was an easy winner of the beginners' chase before the exciting Augusta Kate made a bright start to her jumping career in the mares maiden hurdle.

Owned by a syndicate that includes Graham Wylie, Alan Shearer, golfer Lee Westwood and TV personalities Ant and Dec, Augusta Kate jumped well and lived up to her to 2/9 billing with a smooth three-length success.

Irish Independent

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