Champagne Fever has class to start chasing career in style
On another jumps card that seems destined to be dominated by Willie Mullins, the chasing debut of Champagne Fever is the main attraction at Punchestown this afternoon.
Heroic in winning both the Champion Bumper and Supreme Novices' Hurdle on his two Cheltenham Festival visits, the point-to-point-winning grey has always looked built for this game and Mullins even considered going over fences with this relentless galloper last season.
Today, then, the Rich Ricci-owned gelding makes the transition under Ruby Walsh in the Connexus Communications Beginners' Chase, and there's no reason to believe he won't do so in style.
Granted, Our Vinnie, Corbally Ghost, Rogue Angel and Marlbrook are all worthy sorts, but surely none will prove a match for an on-song Champagne Fever, which looks certain to take top rank among this season's novice chasing brigade.
Analifet, for Gigginstown House Stud, should take the opening three-year-old hurdle with the minimum of fuss, and Glens Melody is another that appeals as a rock-solid option. Winner of a soft Grade One mares' race at Punchestown, the King's Theatre five-year-old tackles the conditions hurdle here.
Oliver Brady's King Shabra – a fine second to the classy Rule The World at Naas last time – has the capacity to cause an upset, but Glens Melody ought to be good enough to see off her rivals.
There is a slight stamina doubt, but having won over two and a half miles in testing going in the past, the step up to two and three quarters shouldn't be a problem, and it's worth noting that she is thrown in on official ratings.
In the novices' handicap hurdle, Arthur Moore's Hop In can build on his recent defeat at Naas, with Mouse Morris' The Doorman napped in the two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle.
Mullins' smart Flat recruit Sure Reef is feared in this, but The Doorman stayed on nicely when second to Noah Webster on his hurdle bow at Naas the same day. On his only other run in a point-to-point last March, JP McManus' four-year-old finished second to last Sunday's classy Navan winner Minella Foru, so Mark Walsh's mount should take plenty of stopping now.