- Cheltenham Festival, Day One
Champagne Fever topples My Tent Or Yours
Ireland drew first blood at the Cheltenham Festival as Champagne Fever powered to victory in the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
My Tent Or Yours was all the rage in the betting market following his win in the Betfair Hurdle last month, but he was found wanting on the run to the line as Champagne Fever followed up his win in the Champion Bumper 12 months ago.
Ruby Walsh had the choice of Champagne Fever and Dodging Bullets and he picked right as his charge made every yard of the running.
"He just came alive the last fortnight," Walsh told Channel 4. "I didn't ride him work last week but I was watching him work at the Curragh with Willie and we both kind of looked at each other. It was scintillating.
"He wasn't doing a whole lot in front, but I knew AP (McCoy) was coming to me as I could feel the crowd revving up. But, in fairness, when AP got to him, he stuck his head down and away he went again."
Champagne Fever suffered a shock reverse earlier in the season, but he returned a sick horse and trainer Willie Mullins has nursed him back to health. He was well backed, going off at 5/1, as if confidence was high. And it proved astute as the dashing grey jumped superbly, travelled well and pulled out plenty when challenged.
The big three in the market, headed by My Tent Or Yours, ultimately fought out the finish. For much of the two miles My Tent Or Your looked sure to justify favouritism as he cantered through the race and was brought to challenge heading to the last.
AP McCoy brought My Tent Or Yours to the stands' side, while owner JP McManus' other runner Jezki was sent to the inside as the green and gold runners flanked Champagne Fever.
Walsh was the first of the big three to get after his horse, but Champagne Fever kept responding.
Champagne Fever and My Tent Or Your jumped the final flight as one and while the winner kept finding more, McCoy's charge was found wanting on the run to the line.
Jezki plugged on gamely after making a mess of the last, with the three miles clear of the rest of the field.