After falling at the final fence when disputing the lead with eventual winner Don Cossack at Thurles last month the Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Fever was sent to Gowran Park this afternoon for the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase in an effort to give the talented grey a confidence booster ahead of the Cheltenham Festival and things went very much to script as the mount of Paul Townsend coasted to an easy four and a quarter length victory over Texas Jack and now heads to Prestbury Park, although the eight-year-old’s target has still to be decided.
A best price 6-1 with William Hill for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (importantly without the NRNB proviso) and 5-1 generally for the two mile test of speed and jumping, the son of Stowaway can be backed at a standout 10-1 with Coral for the five furlong longer Ryanair Chase the following day, two points longer than the Alan King-trained Balder Succes (8-1 with Bet365 and Betvictor) who advertised his claims with a comprehensive victory in the Ascot Chase later in the afternoon.
The seven-year-old’s task was made easier with the departure of 6-4 favourite Ptit Zig at the ninth fence when travelling well but nothing should be taken away from the winner who has returned to something like his best form for the step up in trip, of which King said: “After today’s performance we’ve got to stick to the Ryanair route. I’ve got to speak to the owners as they’re away today, but I think that will be the way we go.
“Over two and a half they just go that half-stride steadier early on. While he’d been running well in the early part of the season, those good two-milers were just getting him out of his comfort zone. Now he’s won the last twice over that bit further.”
Ptit Zig was left unchanged at 4-1 with most bookmakers for the JLT following his mishap although 9-2 is available with Betway.