Clonmel: Champagne sparkles on comeback run
Champagne Fever put in a dominate performance to take the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase under Paul Townend, with main market rival, the veteran Sizing Europe, tiring on the testing ground to finish second last. Champagne Fever, a two time Cheltenham Festival winner, travelled strongly from the front and eventually rolled home a smooth 6 length winner.
The striking grey was sent off a well supported 8/11 favourite for the 2m 4f contest despite his 196 day absence, with Sizing Europe, who had made a winning return at Gowran, sent off the 9/4 second favourite. The market leaders went eye to eye soon after the off, both pulling quite hard, particularly Champagne Fever, who was testing the strength of his partner Townend.
With Sizing Europe for company, Champagne Fever pulled clear down the back straight and was still tanking along as the field turned for home. This is where Sizing Europe began to falter in the heavy ground, leaving it to 11/1 shot Realt Mor to lay down a challenge to the favourite.
Gordon Elliott’s charge was just beginning to get on terms with the eventual winner when a mistake at the third last put payed to his chances. Champagne Fever bounded clear to victory with the staying on Alderwood eventually grabbing second, with the recovered Realt Mor back in third.
A delighted Townend said of the winner: “He can only build on that. It’s a nice little place to introduce him again this year and he just ran a bit fresh over the first few, but when I let him go on he jumped like a buck and did it nicely,” he said.
“With it being a first run, it meant he was keen, but in all his runs up to this he’s looked a stayer and if he’s going to get it (three miles), he’ll get it in the King George.
“He’s won at Cheltenham a couple of times, he’s got class and he’s tough. He seems to have all the attributes of a Gold Cup horse.”
The other big race on the card, the Grade 3 Mares Chase went the way of the impressive Jennies Jewel for Jarlath Fahey and Ian McCarthy. Amazingly it was only the second time that the 7yo was faced with the larger obstacles, but Fahey’s charge, who was a talented hurdler at her best,put in a slick round of jumping to record a 4 1/2 length victory.
Pollywollydoodle, who had refused to race at Wexford last time, set out a decent gallop under Mikey Fogarty and looked the likely winner turning for home still full of running. Jennies Jewel began to stay on, though, under McCarthy’s urgings and eventually went clear to score with a bit in hand.
By Kevin Walsh / Photo: David Davies/PA Archive
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