Gowran toasts Champagne
Exactly 25 years after his father Harry snared Gowran's big race with Grand Habit, Henry de Bromhead's Champagne West took the Thyestes Chase in the front-running manner we expect of his horses.
In winning the race for the first time, the Co Waterford trainer was merely carrying on what has been a sensational season. And Champagne West's handling by David Mullins, 20, will do nothing to dissuade his fans that he is destined to be one of the best in the land.
Nicely backed into 7/1, a horse which had jumping issues when with Philip Hobbs seemed to have barely a semblance of one here. De Bromhead is such a master at getting jumpers to enjoy what they do, one wonders is Alan Potts harbouring regret. The severing of their axis shocked many in racing yet De Bromhead is having by far his best season.
Gigginstown, which threw seven darts but had not one placed runner, will take note of De Bromhead's rise. It was left to Ucello Conti to chase home Champagne West, which thus prevented Gordon Elliott from winning yet another big handicap chase.
"I'm delighted for (owner Roger Brookhouse) as he's given us some really nice horses. David gave him a brilliant ride as he's not easy. He sat so quietly, which we hoped was the key. Bar the fifth-last he jumped really well," the trainer said.
"We've done a fair bit with him (on jumping). He's entered in races at Cheltenham, the Gold Cup; that's a big step. He'll be entered for the National. My father won the Thyestes 25 years ago with Grand Habit. It's one that he can't say he got and I didn't when we are having a row at the table. I remember well: he had a double as Bishops Hall won the same day. I did a pound each-way double. I think I was in every pub in Dublin for a week!"
Like father, like son as De Bromhead also enjoyed a double, Adreamstillalive (9/2f) winning under Mullins (below) in the handicap hurdle, but otherwise it was very much Willie Mullins' day at his local track.
The late drift in the Galmoy of Clondaw Warrior on the exchanges - he had been backed at 10/11 but was around 6/4 at the off - was revealing and he duly laboured in third under Ruby Walsh. Stablemate Shaneshill (9/4), a faller behind that one at Christmas, found plenty for a Paul Townend drive to repel Snow Falcon, which had to give the winner a crucial 5lb.
The winner's jumping stood to him, though Mullins felt that if the ground were to his liking, it was actually against the 11/10 favourite. "I'd imagine the Stayers Hurdle would be his owners' preferred option. I'm disappointed with Clondaw Warrior as I think he's better than that; better ground will suit him better. He had muck right up to his fetlocks."
Bon Papa could be top-class over fences for JP McManus. Time will tell. Barry Geraghty is not getting too excited but he oozed class in a maiden hurdle admittedly made more winnable by the death of intended runner No Brainer at Mouse Morris' stables yesterday.
The 1/5 favourite was not extended, though Geraghty said: "I don't mean to talk him down but he hasn't had to do anything special yet. He's a lovely sort, a nice big raw type."
Geraghty not riding JP McManus' Great View in the maiden chase was one of the discussion points on a day when the wind seemed to be delivered from Siberia. Jody McGarvey did not know why he got the leg-up on the gambled-on 3/1 favourite, which bolted up for team Mullins.
Mullins completed a four-timer with 1/10 bumper winner Getabird, albeit without impressing under son Patrick. The layers had some respite when Notwhatiam took the conditionals' handicap hurdle at 20/1 for Richie Rath and JJ Slevin.