Champagne Fever (right) just gets the better of My Tent Or YoursPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Champagne moment for Walsh and Mullins
Report: Cheltenham, Tuesday
William Hill Supreme Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m½f
MY TENT OR YOURS may have been a hot favourite for the Supreme, with ratings experts having him well clear of his rivals, but one horse was supported above all others with the bookmakers before the race and the Willie Mullins-trained and Ruby Walsh-ridden Champagne Fever duly delivered.
The festival curtain-raiser has been notoriously difficult for favourites to win, with Brave Inca the last winning favourite in 2004, and the race continued to provide frustration for the champion jockey Tony McCoy.
Second, third and second on well-fancied runners in the last three years, McCoy was again narrowly denied after the 15-8 favourite pulled throughout, tanked into the race down the hill, jumped the last upsides, but failed to find as much up the hill as his rival.
His early exuberance may have cost My Tent Or Yours, or it could have been the rising ground, but Champagne Fever, who made all under Ruby Walsh, was not for passing.
"He just came alive the last fortnight. Willie and I watched him work at Leopardstown and he worked scintillating," said Walsh. "Willie always maintained that he was a two-miler and an out-and-out galloper and he was dead right.
"I knew AP was coming to me and I could hear the crowd roar but he jumped like a stag and he stuck his neck out and went away again."
Mullins added: "Ruby said he wanted to be right up there and I said 'If that's what you want to do, do it'. I thought his chance was gone when he hit the second-last but he got back up again.
"His last piece of work was just so good. We decided to come for this race instead of the Albert Bartlett because of the ground and are delighted it came off."
Leading down the hill, the strong pace Champagne Fever set had whittled the field down to the fancied quartet with Jezki and Un Atout also in contention, but turning for home the only remaining question was how much would My Tent Or Yours find.
If he had found as much as looked apparent, he would doubtless have ended McCoy's frustrating run in the race, but Champagne Fever, winner of the Champion Bumper last year, kept finding under a well-judged ride by Walsh.
A double-figure price, even after having the Supreme confirmed as his target, the gamble on Champagne Fever started on Monday and saw him return as the 5-1 winner.
Tony Mccoy said: 'he just got beaten by a better horse'PICTURE: Getty
Nicky Henderson, trainer of My Tent Or Yours, had no excuses for the defeat and said: "He's travelled really well and was always in the right place, AP [McCoy] had no excuses. He's run his race and I'm very pleased with him but it was some performance by the winner and credit to him."
McCoy added: "He just got beaten by a better horse," while JP McManus said: "I think we were beaten fair and square on the day. The other horse outstayed us."
Jezki, who returned at 5-1, momentarily looked like he might get involved coming off the final bend but the front two went away from him and the smaller field and strong pace resulted in very few hard luck stories.
Frank Berry, racing manager to JP McManus, owner of My Tent Or Yours and Jezki, added: "We had every chance at the last. Both My Tent Or Yours and Jezki have run great races and there were no excuses. I'd say Jezki is likely to go to Punchestown now. We'll have to see how My Tent Or Yours comes out of it but you'd have to think Aintree would suit him."
Jessica Harrington, trainer of Jezki, said: "I was delighted with him. There was maybe just a mistake at the last but apart from that there are no complaints. I presume he'll head to Punchestown next."
Racing Post expert Paul Kealy said: "It was a brilliant front-running ride from Walsh, who set a fair but not too strong pace early and then steadily built it up. A winning time of 3m55.6secs suggests those of us who expected the festival to be run on very sticky ground have got it wrong.
"The RP standard is 3m51secs, so we are probably talking about ground just on the soft side of good and, with mostly dry weather set for the rest of the week, it could be good by Gold Cup day."
Paddy Power made Champagne Fever an 8-1 shot for next year's Racing Post Arkle, while William Hill went 7-1 for the same race and 12-1 for the Champion Hurdle.