Deloitte Novice Hurdle Looking Good

Thu 17th Jan 2013, 18:58

Champagne Fever beat New Year's Eve in the Champion Bumper
©Healy Racing Photos
A mouthwatering clash between last season's first and second from Cheltenham's Champion Bumper could be on the cards in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 9.

The Willie Mullins-trained Champagne Fever and John Ferguson's New Year's Eve fought out the finish last March and both have shown promise over hurdles.

However, not everything has gone to plan with Champagne Fever who returned a sick horse after his last run which saw him drift in the betting for Cheltenham's novices' hurdles.

New Year's Eve has only run the once but ran a perfectly respectable second to the classy River Maigue at Kempton. Ferguson has also entered Whispering Gallery, a top-class horse from the level who won his hurdling debut recently.

Mullins has another strong contender, however, in the shape of Pont Alexandre who was a very impressive winner on his first start for the yard in Grade One company at Navan.

Jeremy Scott's Melodic Rendezvous, a good winner of the Tolworth Hurdle, is another possible British runner.

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.

THE IRISH TIMES