Red-hot Fever lands Supreme
Champagne Fever put up a superb front-running performance to get Ireland off to a great start at the Cheltenham Festival in the opening William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Ruby Walsh set out to make all on the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old (5-1), who had stablemate Un Atout for company for most of the way, with hot favourite My Tent Or Yours always close behind and looking a major threat as they turned into the straight.
There was nothing in it between Champagne Fever and the sweetly travelling My Tent Or Yours as they jumped the final flight, but the front-runner responded to every call and forged ahead up the hill to win by half a length. Jezki finished third, a further two and a quarter lengths away.
Walsh said: "He jumped like a stag and travelled really well. It's magic - he just came alive the last fortnight. 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.
"Patrick (Mullins, the trainer's son) has always maintained he was a two-miler and an out-and-out galloper - he was dead right. 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."
Mullins added: "It was a very brave performance from the horse to lead like that and jump like that. Ruby said he heard Tony McCoy coming up behind him and the horse just took off with him.
"He knew he'd lots of horse. Ruby was trying to steady it and ride a tactical race - he obviously got it spot-on. It was fantastic to watch him coming up the hill.
"He'll go to Punchestown next and next season will all be about chasing. We've schooled him and he already jumps fences better than hurdles - he is electric over a fence."
McCoy said of My Tent Or Yours: "I was beaten by a better horse."