Mullins clan deliver Champagne for Irish

 

After 13 races, the Irish had celebrated no more winners at the Festival than the Welsh. They had seen two champions, Hurricane Fly and Sizing Europe, turned over at odds-on. It was only in the final race, the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, that they at last found succour – in the almost inevitable shape of Willie Mullins.

The man who the previous day had produced Quevega to win here for the fourth year running now resumed the dominant role he had enjoyed in earlier runnings of this race. Having once produced the winner four times in five years, he came up with a seventh in Champagne Fever, ridden by his son Patrick, who outstayed New Year's Eve after the favourite had travelled powerfully throughout.

Mullins also saddled the eye-catching third, Pique Sous, and was clearly grateful for a tonic after Hurricane Fly's defeat on Tuesday. "I'm delighted because we'd got a little despondent about how some of the horses had been running," Mullins said.

"This horse just gallops and has a huge cruising speed. I said to Patrick just to be up there, so he took it upon himself to make the running – and the horse just seemed to get better when he hit the rising ground."

Teaforthree, who won the opening Diamond Jubilee National Hunt Chase for Rebecca Curtis, was the 34th winner of only her fifth season. The former Irish point-to-pointer thus announced the Pembrokeshire trainer's arrival on the big stage – and this might only be the start, as Curtis hopes to train him for Aintree next year.

A trainer who has already won a National, Donald McCain, confirmed himself among the top Festival operators when Son Of Flicka added the Coral Cup to the stable's success with Cinders And Ashes on Tuesday.

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