Champagne Fever to make return at Thurles on Thursday
2014 Cheltenham Gold cup hero Lord Windermere also coming back from long absence
Ruby Walsh will ride the returning Champagne Fever at Thurles on Thursday. Photograph: Inpho/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Two former dual Cheltenham Festival heroes, Champagne Fever and Lord Windermere, return to action in Thursday’s Boomerang Animal Bedding And Boomerang Horse & Country Store Chase at Thurles.
The Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Fever, winner of the 2012 Champion Bumper and 2013 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, has been off the track for 576 days after a few minor problems.
Jim Culloty’s Lord Windermere won the RSA Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2013 and 2014 respectively, his last two successes, and returns after pulling up in the Grand National won by Many Clouds.
Champagne Fever holds an entry in the John Durkan on December 11, but the Mullins camp are keen to see him come through this first.
Willie’s son and assistant Patrick said: “It looks an ideal race to bring him back in, the conditions suit him as he’s got no penalty, which is a nice bonus.
“He seems in very good form at home, I actually schooled him myself just the other day and he felt great and jumped nicely.
“We hope he can get back to winning ways, he’s a lovely horse who has been unlucky recently.
“There was never anything seriously wrong last year, we had hoped to bring him back but he just had a few niggly problems.
“Then of course the year before he was bitten by another horse of ours on the way over to Cheltenham and couldn’t run.”
Six runners tackle the Listed race, which boasts the likes of War Of Attrition and Sir Des Champs as previous winners.
Gordon Elliott runs Roi Des Francs, a Grade Two-winning novice for Mullins last season and one of the many Gigginstown House Stud-owned horses removed from the champion trainer, while the same owners also run the Noel Meade-trained Wounded Warrior, the choice of Bryan Cooper, who runs here in preference to the Hennessy.