The Punchestown Festival next week brings the curtain down on the jumping season and CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC looks a tasty bet on the opening day Tuesday in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Hurdle at 6.40. This locally sponsored race is now worth over "100 grand" and has Grade One Status.
Gordon Elliott's charge had to miss the Cheltenham Festival with a late setback, and this is his sole entry at Punchestown where 14/1 each way is hard to resist. It was over the track and trip that he enjoyed his finest hour so far in another Grade One at the same Festival two years ago.
Having won the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham - a race close to the heart of Elliott who of course worked with Pipe for many years - he was upped a mile in class for the Daily Mirror Novice Champion Hurdle at Punchestown and duly obliged for Bryan Cooper at 14/1.
To say he beat a high class field would be putting it mildly, for among those who finished behind him were Penhill, Monalee, recent Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and (recent Gold Cup favourite!) Presenting Percy. The world seemed his oyster after that performance which delighted both Elliott and owners Gigginstown but alas he was not to race again until January this year.
Here he finished third to the ill fated Ballyward over three miles at Naas, with Chris's Dream second. His next, and most recent, appearance was over the same trip at Navan where he was backed into 5/4 jolly to reverse placings with Chris's Dream which he would surely have done in another stride as 5/2 market rival Chris's Dream held on all out.
Stablemate Delta Work is 11/10 favourite for next Tuesday's race, but he is also entered in the Punchestown Gold Cup the following day where indeed he looks Elliott's only serious player. But Ellliott and Gigginstown are never afraid to let their horses take each other on, and, with or without Delta Work, Champagne Classic really looks something to bet on next Tuesday.
Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase - Punchestown Tuesday
CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC 0.5 point each way 14/1 Betfair & Paddy Power