Champagne in successful return
Champagne Fever saw off Lord Windermere in a pulsating climax to the Boomerang Animal Bedding And Boomerang Horse & Country Store Chase at Thurles.
Champagne Fever: Listed chase winner at Thurles
The Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Fever is a dual Cheltenham Festival scorer, having won the Champion Bumper in 2012 and the Supreme Novices' Hurdle 12 months later, and came mighty close to completing the hat-trick in the 2014 Arkle Trophy.
Despite having been off the track since April of last year, the flying grey was prominent in the market for this Listed event at 11/8 and, barring one mistake, jumped superbly throughout under Ruby Walsh.
Noel Meade's Wounded Warrior was the 5-4 favourite and set out to make the running, but Champagne Fever was always on his tail and the market leader checked out quickly before the home turn.
Roi Des Francs loomed up as a big danger in the home straight, as did Lord Windermere, the 2014 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero who had been off the track for 593 days.
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The latter eventually emerged as the main threat to Champagne Fever and after a battle to the line, the Mullins runner emerged victorious by a head.
Mullins said: "He ran a good race for his first run back, which he always does. I'll probably look for a similar race for him next over two and a half (miles).
"I think the John Durkan might come too soon and I might also look for something easier than that.
"We'll see how he comes out of this but he might go for a Grade Two or Grade Three.
"He was keen and that's why I might drop him back in trip – I thought two miles and six (furlongs) on that ground is as much as he wants.
"We have got him to stay in the past but I'm not sure it agrees with him and he might be better off going a shorter trip.
"I don't know if I can see him being competitive at Grade One level again but we'll see.
"I'm hoping he could be like Ballycasey and be rejuvenated."
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