March 3, 2021

Champers continues to shine

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Champers Elysees put herself in the reckoning for Irish Champions Weekend with victory in the Group Three Coolmore Stud No Nay Never Fairy Bridge Stakes at Gowran.

Johnny Murtagh’s charge had improved more than 22lb from her Curragh handicap win in June on the official figures, notching a seven-length Listed victory at the Galway Festival en-route to this seven-and-a-half-furlong test – which was rearranged from waterlogged Tipperary last Thursday.

Sent off the 5-6 favourite in the hands of Niall McCullagh, Champers Elysees was restrained in the pack as Auxilia set the early pace, with Pearls Galore racing on the heels of the pacesetter.

Turning into the straight, Billy Lee was eager to grab a pitch up the stands’ rail on Pearls Galore, swinging wide and looking as though he could have found the winning edge.

However, when McCullagh gave Champers Elysees a couple of cracks, she engaged another gear – going on to win by a cosy half-length, with the pair five lengths clear of British raider Parent’s Prayer in third.

Murtagh is considering a swift return to action, and another leap in company to Group One, with Champers Elysees in the frame for next week’s Matron Stakes at Leopardstown.

He said: “I was so sick last week when Tipperary was called off, but thankfully the race was rescheduled to here, and I thought the track would suit her well.

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“She really improved from Galway, and had a better prep coming into this race.

“If everything is all right, she’ll go for the Matron. It’s a bit tight – and if this race was on last week, it would have given us two weeks – but she’s tough and hardy.”

McCullagh missed a chunk of the year through injury, but Murtagh was thrilled to supply him with a high-profile winner.

He added: “I’m delighted for Niall that he was able to ride a Group winner for us. He’s a big part of my life and of our team since we started.

“He’s been out injured a long time and has worked hard to get back. I’m delighted to be able to pay him back, because he put in a lot of work early in the year and then missed out on a lot of winners.”