Champagne West jumps rivals ragged to take Gowran Park prize
Henry de Bromhead has an eye on the big-time for Champagne West after the once-error-prone chaser pulverised his Goffs Thyestes Chase opposition with a bloodless front-running rout under David Mullins.
The reformed nine-year-old was having just his third start for the County Waterford trainer and arrived on the back of an impressive win in a Listed race at Tramore on New Year’s Day.
Bar a shuddering blunder five-out he fenced fluently for Mullins here. Indeed, De Bromhead, who was emulating his father Harry’s 1992 triumph in the prestigious three-mile handicap with Grand Habit, was so impressed with his jumping that he refused to rule out a tilt at either the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Randox Health Grand National.
De Bromhead is already in the midst of his best season numerically, although he has had a couple of near misses with Stellar Notion in these valuable handicaps, most recently at Leopardstown on Sunday.
On that occasion, Gordon Elliott stretched his unbeaten run in domestic handicap chases worth €100,000 or more to seven. This time, however, the boot was on the other foot as Elliott had to settle for second with Ucello Conti, who fared best of his seven-strong squad.
“My father won it 25 years ago so I am delighted to win it,” De Bromhead said. “It's one that he can't say he got and I didn't when we are having a row!
“Gordon has had a real stranglehold on these races so I was expecting something of his to come again - it happened to us on Sunday - so it is nice to get one.
“David gave him a brilliant ride. Champagne West is not easy because of his jumping, but he just sat so quietly on him and we hoped that would be the key to him. In fairness, bar the fifth-last, he was brilliant."
Of Champagne West’s options, De Bromhead said: “He is entered in races at Cheltenham, including the Gold Cup. That's a big step, but we'll enjoy today, speak to Roger [Brookhouse, owner] and go from there.
“I was going to come back here for the Red Mills Chase if he stopped at the third-last, which we might still do. I'm not sure."
Asked about a Grand National tilt at Aintree, he responded: “He will be entered, definitely. The way he jumped and galloped there, he could easily go there.”
BoyleSports introduced Champagne West at 25-1 for the Grand National, and cut him from 80-1 to 33-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Last year’s Grand National hero Mullins was enhancing his esteemed family’s dynasty in their local showpiece, his uncle Willie and late grandfather Paddy having previously enjoyed success in the race.
“He did it in great style,” the 20-year-old rider said. “He ran away with me the whole way until I got over the third-last, but he never showed any sign of stopping. The sky’s the limit with him as long as he has soft ground.”
Elliott expressed himself delighted with Ucello Conti’s run and suggested that he would now head straight to Aintree.