Champagne celebration for Mullins
Champagne Fever made all to present trainer Willie Mullins with a seventh success in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
Mullins has farmed the Grade One event since its inception and gave his son Patrick the leg up aboard the 16-1 shot. Mullins jnr decided to take them all on, leading from the off as well-supported favourite New Year's Eve was dropped into the pack.
Barry Geraghty looked to be going ominously well on the John Ferguson-trained market leader at the top of the hill and he made his break for the lead some way out, but Champagne Fever was not for passing and he bravely stuck his head out to prevail by a length and a quarter.
Mullins' perceived first string Pique Sous finished third, just a head adrift.
The trainer said: "Both of them ran a cracker and we just said we'd be positive on this fellow. I'm delighted, especially with the way a few of mine were running, we were getting despondent.
"This horse gallops and he has a huge cruising speed. That's where we went wrong the first day as we waited with him, so the next day he made all and we decided we'd do the same today.
"He's going to be a big light-framed horse all his life I think, I hope so as they are easier to keep sound than those big, heavier horses. I'm delighted for the owners, they have a lot of horses with me and it is very nice to get them a winner here.
"Pique Sous has run a cracker, too. He cruised down the hill and he is one that will go to Punchestown. We've all had an up and down 24 hours, and you always hope something comes right."
The winning rider, who was given a two-day whip ban, said: "I thought my two rides earlier in the week were my best two chances - one pulled up and one fell. This lad reminds me of Quel Esprit. He cruises along, he doesn't really have a turn of foot but has a very long stride and kept finding."