WILLIE Mullins does not expect the step up to three miles to trouble Champagne Fever in the William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
A dual Cheltenham Festival winner, having claimed the Champion Bumper and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle over two miles, the flying grey will be tackling the longer distance for the first time over the Festive period.
The seven-year-old made an excellent start to the new campaign with an authoritative victory in the Clonmel Oil Chase over an intermediate trip of two and a half miles. Speaking from a press day at his Closutton yard, Mullins said: “Champagne Fever is bred to get three-miles plus, so I don’t see the trip being an issue.”
Course specialist Cape Tribulation is on track for a third crack at the William Hill Rowland Meyrick Chase – Wetherby’s Boxing Day highlight.
The winner in 2012, Malcolm Jefferson’s stable stalwart was third to Sue Smith’s Cloudy Too 12 months ago and was seventh to the classy Sam Winner in a handicap chase at Cheltenham on his last outing.
“He has come on great since Cheltenham. Some of mine have not been running that well but he is perking up,” said the Malton trainer.
“I thought he ran all right at Cheltenham but he just got tired. He has been working nicely since and seems in great form.”
Front-running tactics in first-time blinkers worked the oracle as former top novice hurdler Gevrey Chambertin returned to winning ways over fences at Newbury.
The grey pinged the first couple for Tom Scudamore and didn’t see another rival, coming home two and a half lengths to the good over Kaki De La Pree.
Scudamore said: “He really pleased me in his schooling and he’d dropped from 147 to 129. It’s nice to get him back. He looked a bit more like his old self.”
Former champion jockey Jamie Spencer was back in the winner’s enclosure after his first ride since announcing he was to carry on riding when partnering Master Of Irony to victory at Lingfield.
The Grey Gatsby, winner of the Dante Stakes, French Derby and Irish Champion Stakes, is expected to be named horse of the year at today’s Go Racing in Yorkshire annual awards.