Horses To Follow » Champagne James

Champagne James

Champagne James put up another good performance to finish second to Empire Of Dirt in the two-and-a-half-mile novices’ handicap chase at Naas on Sunday.

Held up towards the rear of the field through the early stages of the race by Adrian Heskin, he travelled well around the home turn among horses, and picked up nicely when his rider gave him a squeeze on the run to the second last fence. He got in tight to that obstacle as Empire Of Dirt picked up in front. He did keep on well all the way to the line, but he just couldn’t get past the talented winner, going down by just a length in the end.

This was still a really promising performance by the Ted Walsh-trained gelding. The winner is a really nice progressive horse, and the first two home pulled nicely clear of some useful rivals, including Asitsohappens and Bishops Road. Champagne James lost no caste in finishing second, and he might have got even closer to Empire Of Dirt had he jumped the second last fence a little better. More than that, however, he shaped here once again as if he would be better with a greater test of stamina.

A full-brother to good two-and-a-half-mile hurdler Rory O’Moore, Barry Connell’s horse has progressed with each of his five runs over fences. Sunday’s run was a career-best, and there is every reason to expect that he can progress again. He is only seven, he is still lightly-raced, and he will be interesting now stepped up in trip. The handicapper left him on his mark of 126 after this, which is more than fair. There could be a decent handicap in him off that mark.

22nd February 2015