Champagne Fever Party in Champion Bumper
1 Champagne Fever 16/1
Willie Mullins landed the Weatherbys Champion Bumper for the seventh time when Champagne Fever took this year’s contest under the trainer’s son Patrick.
“I’m delighted because we’d got a little despondent about how some of the horses had been running,” said the winning trainer. “The horse just gallops and has a huge cruising speed. That’s where we went wrong with him first time out at Leopardstown, we should have made more use of him. We always thought he was good but just messed up that day. At Fairyhouse we made all the running and I said to Patrick today to just be up there so he took it on himself to make the running.The horse seemed to go even better when he hit the rising ground.
“I’m delighted for connections because Susannah Ricci has a lot of horses with me and a winner here is always fantastic but it’s even more special when it’s ridden by your son.
“He’s a big light-framed horse and I hope he will remain like that all of his life because that type of horse is easier to keep sound.”
Mullins also saddled third-placed Pique Sous and added: “He ran an absolute cracker and I was delighted with him. He came down the hill well and he and the winner could go to Punchestown.”
Four years after recording his first victory in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper on Cousin Vinny, Patrick Mullins notched another success in the race aboard 16/1 shot Champagne Fever, who is trained by his father Willie.
Patrick said: “I’ve always compared him to Quel Esprit, in that he has great cruising speed but not much of a finishing kick. He has a fine old stride so I wanted to use that and he showed that he was able to keep it up the whole way.
“I wondered going round the home bend how much he had left but when the others came to me he just kept finding. He’s tough but a few people have questioned his head carriage. He carries his head up high but that’s just his posture.
“He’s a very exciting horse. Any day you can get a winner on the board at Cheltenham is great and for dad to get two is fantastic.”
There was some bad news for the young jockey, however, after he was banned for two days, for exceeding the number of times he was allowed to use his whip by one. Declan Lavery, rider of fourth- placed Moscow Mannon, received a seven-day ban, also for excessive use of the whip.
NEW YEAR’S EVE ADDS TO FERGUSON’S HAPPY YEAR
John Ferguson’s memorable first season as a permit-holder gained further gloss when New Year’s Eve finished second in the Weatherbys-sponsored Champion Bumper.
Suffolk-based Ferguson employed Barry Geraghty for the ride on the four-year-old who split the Willie Mullins- trained pair Champagne Fever and Pique Sous, going down by one and a quarter lengths after the three pulled clear and had a sustained battle.
Ferguson said: “I’m delighted with the way he’s run and he’s going to be a smashing horse for next year.
“He’s won two bumpers and to finish second in Cheltenham’s championship race is a great start to a horse’s career. He’s got the size and scope to go on and he’ll jump a hurdle in the autumn.
“I asked Barry to ride this one because Jack [Quinlan, who rides most of the yard’s horses] is still a 5lb claimer and it’s not fair to ask someone of that experience to come to the Festival for three rides, so I used Barry on this one and Denis [O’Regan] on Cotton Mill.”
WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER PAST RESULTS
2011-WINNER-CHELTENIAN 5-11-05 Owner-Roger Brookhouse; Trainer-Philip Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-14/1
2010-WINNER-CUE CARD 4-10-12 Owner-Jean Bishop; Trainer-Colin Tizzard; Jockey-Joe Tizzard; SP-40/1
2009-WINNER-DUNGUIB 6-11-05 Owner-Daniel Harnett; Trainer-Philip Fenton IRE; Jockey-Mr Brian O’Connell; SP-9/2
2008-WINNER-COUSIN VINNY 5-11-05 Owner-Festival Syndicate; Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Mr Patrick Mullins; SP-12/1
ALL STAR 5-11-05 Owner-Cathal Ryan; Trainer-Jessica Harrington IRE; Jockey-Barry
MOLLY 6-11-05 Owner-F T B Syndicate; Trainer-Joe Crowley
IRE; Jockey-Paul Carberry; SP-33/1
THAT 6-11-05 Owner-Violet O’Leary;
Trainer-Willie Mullins IRE; Jockey-Ruby Walsh; SP-7/2 Fav
2004-WINNER-TOTAL ENJOYMENT 5-10-12 Owner-It Will Never Last Syndicate;
Trainer-Tommy Cooper IRE; Jockey-Jim Culloty; SP-7/1
2003-WINNER-LIBERMAN 5-11-06 Owner-David Johnson; Trainer-Martin Pipe;
Jockey-Tony McCoy; SP-2/1 Fav
2002-WINNER-PIZARRO 5-11-06 Owner-Edward Wallace;
IRE; Jockey-Jamie Spencer; SP-14/1
2000-WINNER-JOE CULLEN 5-11-06 Owner-Jackie Mullins; Trainer-Willie
Mullins IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-14/1
1999-MONSIGNOR 5-11-06 Owner-Malcolm Denmark; Trainer-Mark Pitman; Jockey-Brendan
1998-WINNER-ALEXANDER BANQUET 5-11-06 Owner-M Swarbrick; Trainer-Willie
Mullins IRE; Jockey-Mr Ruby Walsh; SP-9/1
1997-WINNER-FLORIDA PEARL 5-11-06 Owner-Violet
Mullins IRE; Jockey-Richard Dunwoody; SP-6/1
1996-WINNER-WITHER OR WHICH 5-11-06 Owner-Robert Sinclair; Trainer-Willie
Mullins IRE; Jockey-Mr Willie Mullins; SP-11/4
1995-WINNER-DATO STAR 4-10-12 Owner-Kath Riley & Joe
Donald; Trainer-Malcolm Jefferson; Jockey-Mark Dwyer; SP-7/2
1994-WINNER-MUCKLEMEG 6-11-05 Owner-J P McManus; Trainer-Edward O'Grady
IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-7/2 Fav
1993-WINNER-RHYTHM SECTION 4-10-11 Owner-Robert Sinclair; Trainer-Homer
Scott IRE; Jockey-Paul Carberry; SP-16/1
1992-WINNER-MONTELADO 5-11-13 Owner-Ollie Hannon; Trainer-Pat Flynn
IRE; Jockey-Richard Dunwoody; SP-8/1
WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER FACTS & FIGURES
1. The first winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 1992 was Montelado, who achieved what is thought to be the unique feat of winning two consecutive Festival races. The Bumper, now run on Wednesday, was originally the last race of The Festival. Montelado went on to win the opening race of the The Festival in 1993, the William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
2. Irish-trained runners have a great record, accounting for 14 of the 19 winners. Willie Mullins has incredibly saddled six winners - he also rode his first winner of the race, the 1996 scorer Wither Or Which, while his son Patrick was in the saddle when Cousin Vinny won for the stable in 2008.
3. The five horses to have kept the trophy at home were Dato Star in 1995, Monsignor, who sprang a 50/1 surprise in 1999, Liberman, who gave Martin Pipe his first and only win in the race in 2003, Cue Card, who the 2010 renewal at odds of 40/1, and last year’s victor Cheltenian.
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