Willie Mullins’ Champagne Fever made an excellent seasonal debut at Clonmel yesterday when landing the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase with the minimum of fuss.
Paul Townend seemed anxious to restrain him somewhat in the early part of the contest and, as a result, the grey took a fair tug.
His jumping was a little sloppy as well and he certainly wasn’t great at the second. Starting out for the final time, however, Townend allowed him stride on and Champagne Fever led over the sixth last.
The favourite then looked far happier and already had this in safe keeping when Realt Mor, in second, but held, got it all wrong two out.
“He’s improved a lot, that was a very good performance and much better than I thought it would be,” commented Mullins.
“I had fitness concerns coming here and, I’d imagine, the King George (Kempton) could now be the plan.
“A right handed and tight track would suit him. I don’t know if he would run before that or not.
“He made a few mistakes early in the race and Paul said he was pulling too hard and not concentrating. I was wondering if I was doing the right thing coming to Clonmel, a sharp track, and if he would be able to use his staying ability.”
Sizing Europe, following a superb return to action when slamming Road To Riches at Gowran Park, was in trouble before the turn in, eventually struggling home only sixth.
His trainer, Henry de Bromhead, remarked: “That was disappointing, Jonathan (Burke) said he didn’t carry him the way he did at Gowran.
“I’m not one for rash decisions, but my immediate reaction is that it was the ground, but I’ll will have to think it through.”
The Grade 3 EBF TA Morris Memorial Mares’ Chase was won in fine style by the Jarlath Fahey-trained Jennies Jewel.
Partnered by Ian McCarthy, she coasted past long-timer leader Pollywollydoodle before two out to score by four and a half lengths.
Said Fahey: “When I saw the rain this morning, I knew it was in her favour. Ian gave her a brilliant ride and she will probably stick to mares’ races over fences now.”
Killultagh Vic, initiating a double for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, toyed with the opposition on the way to making a successful debut over jumps in the INH Stallion Owners’ EBF Maiden Hurdle.
The dual bumper winner revelled in the testing conditions and is clearly a horse with a fair engine.
He made practically all of the running and only had to be nudged forward in the straight to easily beat Virtuouso Rouge.
Said Townend: “It was very straightforward, I would have liked a lead, but they were going too slow.”
Clara McCloud put up a decent display to defy 11-8 for Barry Geraghty in the Clonmel Oil Service Station Handicap Hurdle. Produced to lead at the final flight, the six-year-old found plenty on the flat to easily beat Tulsa Jack.
“Gordon (Elliott) has done a good job with her, she’s a nice mare,” said Geraghty. “I was worried about the ground, but she travelled as sweet as a nut.”
The Bold Beckey, trained by Tommy Nagle and ridden by Shane Crimin, took the Clonmel Oil Race Day Handicap Hurdle by six lengths.
The issue appeared in the balance heading to the final flight, but the winner threw a mighty leap and soon forged on from Stay With It.
Said Nagle: “She’s game and has improved a good bit. I thought she was a certainty, if handling the ground.”
Pumbaa, the only horse Thurles handler Don Cummins has in training, was all the rage in the market for the Prior Park Service Station Clonmel Handicap Chase and duly landed the wagers.
Ridden by Roger Quinlan, Pumbaa made all of the running, cruising home nicely clear of Spot Fine.
“I thought he was a certainty,” joked Paul Nolan, after his Kennady cropped up at 20-1 in the four-runner Bumper. When I ran him at Killarney (first time up), I have never been so disappointed with any horse and it’s worse he got. This was his last chance.”
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