Warhorse downs Champagne in Arkle thriller

If there was a massive celebration for Irish punters after the Supreme Novices' then it was a case of desolation after Champagne Fever's defeat by 33-1 shot, Western Warhorse, in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy.

This contest had the potential to put many Irish punters on easy street and if Champagne Fever had gone in then losing at the meeting was unlikely for many of them.

But it was not to be on this occasion for the Mullins-Walsh team. Ruby had his charge in front at the second and the imposing grey proceeded to throw some mighty leaps.

He never flinched from the back of the last fence, but Western Warhorse gradually wore him down and collared Champagne Fever literally in the last stride.

Winning trainer David Pipe said: “He has always been a bit of a character. The plan was to make all, but Tom (Scudamore) rode a canny race, the way the horse jumped the last two sealed it.”

Pipe said: “He’s been point-to-pointing in Ireland and jumped well at Doncaster, so even though he’d only had one run over fences, it wasn’t a real worry. What happened at Kempton when he dumped Tom Scu and bolted might have been a blessing.

“Roger (Brookhouse, owner) wanted to run him in this, but I wanted to go for a nice handicap somewhere, so it’s a good job Roger got his way.

“He’s always shown lots of ability and the drop back in trip has suited.

“Tom has given him a really canny ride, because I told him to bounce out and make the running, but they were going a stride too quick, so he just dropped in.

“He has the hood on to help him calm him down.”

Scudamore said: “I still can’t quite believe that. I’ve won an Arkle, it’s extraordinary.

“It was Roger Brookhouse who said drop him back to two miles.

“We were not expecting that. It’s a great thrill and for a change I’m lost for words.”

Mullins said of Champagne Fever: “He’s run a fantastic race.

“You’d be disappointed with the result, but not the performance. That’s it for two miles. We’ll step him right up in trip next season.”

Charles Byrnes, responsible for the third home, Trifolium, said: “He’s run a very honest race. He could never quite get to Champagne Fever at the second-last, but I’m thrilled with his attitude as he could have thrown the towel in but he didn’t.”

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