Willie Mullins warns that Champagne Fever may need the race, but the grey is still the choice to land the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase at Clonmel this afternoon.
At level weights one would have had no hesitation siding with the venerable Sizing Europe, but the veteran has to concede his rival 11lbs and that is a big enough ask.
Sizing Europe will be a 13-year-old in a couple of weeks, but there is no indication he is about to go into decline.
Indeed, his success first time up this season bears the closest inspection. At Gowran Park early last month he gave Road To Riches 4lbs and a head beating and that form got a massive boost when Road To Riches went on to easily win a Grade 1 at Down Royal.
Champagne Fever is a puzzling horse. He has had some great days, notably when winning the bumper and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at successive Cheltenham festivals.
And at Cheltenham in March, he was only grabbed late and beaten a head into second by Western Warhorse in the Arkle Trophy.
The seven-year-old, however, has also run some shockers in his time and that is a constant worry.
The facts are, though, that Champagne Fever has always won first time out, since being launched over jumps, and gets the vote.
The nap falls on Mullins’ Killultagh Vic, who is fancied to make a winning debut over flights in the INH Stallion Owners’ EBF Maiden Hurdle.
He was a high-class horse in bumpers, although not good enough for the likes of Shaneshill and Silver Concorde, but should now come into his own at this game and moving up in distance.
Mullins saddles the newcomer, Pearl Diamond, in the Bumper but preference is for Harry Kelly’s Railway Rule, who could be nicely suited by plenty of cut!
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