Champagne Fever to hit Liverpool
AP McCoy has been snapped up to partner Don Cossack in what has the makings of a thrilling Melling Chase at Aintree this afternoon.
Gordon Elliott's Gigginstown Stud-owned eight-year-old ran admirably to be third in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham despite plenty going against him.
The suspensions that Bryan Cooper picked up at the Cotswold festival have already proved costly, with the Irish Grand National hero Thunder And Roses and Dedigout doubling up for his employer at Fairyhouse on Monday and Clarcam slamming his Grade One rivals in Liverpool yesterday.
Success for Don Cossack in this £200,000 Grade One would be a further sickener, though the suspicion is that he might ideally need a little further given the prevailing conditions.
Sire De Grugy, Al Ferof and Balder Succes could all have solid cases made for them, but it is Don Cossack's fellow raider Champagne Fever that appeals as the likeliest winner. A horse that has had a busy campaign despite historical evidence suggesting that he goes best fresh, Willie Mullins' dual Cheltenham-winning hero was an 11th hour absentee in March after getting bitten by one of his stablemates en route.
That might prove to be a blessing in disguise. In four starts at this trip over fences, the only time that he has been undone was when he fell at the last alongside Don Cossack at Thurles in January. Don Cossack looked to be shading that argument at the time, but it came just a few weeks after Champagne Fever had endured a hard race when not getting home in the King George VI Chase.
The exuberant grey was back to something close to his best at Gowran Park subsequently, and he comes here a fresh horse now. Under the peerless Ruby Walsh, he is expected to excel.
McCoy has a cracking book of rides, including the deeply exciting Minella Rocco in the Grade One novices' hurdle over three miles. Mullins' Roi Des Francs and Mouse Morris' Alpha Des Obeaux could both have cases made for them in this, particularly Alpha Des Obeaux given his form behind Douvan.
However, Minella Rocco has looked a serious animal in winning a point-to-point and two novices' hurdles, so Jonjo O'Neill's son of Shirocco is hard to oppose. In the Topham over the Grand National fences, Morris' Gigginstown-owned Rathlin is interesting.
In short, Brian O'Connell's mount is a bold jumper that relishes decent ground and is suited by this trip.
Selections: 1.40 The Saint James 2.15 Qewy 2.50 Ainsi Fideles 3.25 Champagne Fever 4.05 Rathlin 4.40 Minella Rocco 5.15 Bellshill