Champagne Fever falls flat to leave Don Cossack clear
THE old adage about jumping being the name of the game rang true at Thurles where Don Cossack took full advantage of Champagne Fever's final-fence fall in the Kinloch Brae Chase.
With only four runners, and just a couple of them seriously considered in the betting, the two-and-a-quarter-mile event developed into the predicted game of cat and mouse between the two main protagonists.
Dropping back in trip after his fourth in the King George, Ruby Walsh on Champagne Fever made a few attempts to stretch away but Bryan Cooper on Don Cossack would not let them out of his sight.
There was a suspicion that Don Cossack was just getting on top at the last - which the pair met together - but what had been a spotless round of jumping from Champagne Fever up to that point reached a swift conclusion as the Willie Mullins-trained grey crumpled on landing.
An Irish horse has yet to win the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and Don Cossack, a clearly transformed customer, which has won all four starts this season, is now disputing favouritism with 2014 winner Dynaste.
"He had a proper test today, maybe even more than when he won the John Durkan," said trainer Gordon Elliott.
"Unfortunately, Champagne Fever fell, so you never know what would have happened. Bryan thought he had him covered. I was standing at the last and I thought we had, but you never know and you have to jump."
Champagne Fever was unharmed and is now set to run next in the Champion Chase.
Walsh and Mullins gained a modicum of compensation when Vroum Vroum Mag (1/2 favourite) completed a hat-trick in the Rich Ricci colours in the Grade Two Leading Light Coolmore NH Sires Mares Novice Chase.
This completed a double for the pair as they had earlier claimed the WT O'Grady Memorial Novice Hurdle, but it was the Mullins second string Measureofmydreams (4/1) which took top honours, turning over long odds-on favourite and stablemate Milsean.
Mullins went on to record treble as Prince De Beauchene easily justived 8/11 favouritism in the finale under son Patrick.