Fever Faces Five In Slaney

Fri 4th Jan 2013, 10:36

Champagne Fever
©Healy Racing Photos
Champagne Fever heads six runners in the Slaney Hurdle at Naas on Sunday.

Last season's Cheltenham bumper winner had to play second fiddle to Jezki at Fairyhouse on his last start but that form has been well advertised since.

The Stowaway gelding, who won a point-to-point on his debut, makes the step up to two-and-a-half miles in the Grade 2 event.

Willie Mullins believes the extra distance will be in his favour.

"Hopefully the step up in trip will suit him and the ground should be fine," said Mullins.

"The Royal Bond form looks very good after what Jezki did at Leopardstown over Christmas.

"Hopefully Champagne Fever can confirm that."

Minsk, who faded in the closing stages to finish fourth in the Grade 1 Royal Bond at Fairyhouse, lines up against him again. His trainer Dessie Hughes also saddles Captain Arceus.

Minsk has a little over five lengths to find with Champagne Fever on that form, but Hughes is confident it will be more of a race this time.

"I hope we might be able to turn the form around," said Hughes.

"I think I might have run him back a bit quick in the Royal Bond.

"It was only a couple of weeks after his first run of the season in Punchestown and I think he might just have run a bit flat on the day.

"He's an Irish Cesarewitch winner and he might just be a better horse over two and a half miles over hurdles.

"But, having said that, he wasn't done for foot the last day - he turned into the straight like the winner.

"He seems in good form at home - he's perfect - and I'm very happy with him."

Hughes also saddles Captain Arceus, who has plenty to do at the ratings.

"He's a consistent horse. It's a Grade Two race and we have to let him take his chance," said the County Kildare trainer.

Mouse Morris is hoping Rule The World can build on his impressive win at Navan in early December.

The County Tipperary trainer said: "It's a good race and the ground is a bit soft for our fellow, but it's going to be soft ground wherever you go.

"We had him in at Leopardstown over Christmas but we decided to wait for this.

"He's in good shape and hopefully he can run a big race.

"We won't think about Cheltenham and things like that until we see how he get on this weekend."

Sizing Jo'burg, who landed a Downpatrick maiden hurdle last time, and former Hennessy winner Joncol complete the field.

GRAND NATIONAL - The Northern Challenge

The Sue Smith-trained Auroras Encore was the last northern-trained horse to win the Grand National back in 2013 but recent victories for that part of the country have been thin on the ground since the likes of Lucius, Rubstic and Hallo Dandy in the late 70s early 80’s showed that steeplechasing was in a healthy state north of the Watford Gap with the likes of Gordon W Richards, Denys Smith, Arthur Stephenson, Peter Easterby and Jimmy Fitzgerald capable of holding their own against their southern and Irish counterparts.