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Ruby Walsh backing Champagne Fever for Cheltenham Festival hat-trick

Ruby Walsh believes Champagne Fever has just the right blend of speed and stamina to claim a hat-trick of Cheltenham Festival victories by prevailing in this year's Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase.

The seven-year-old kept on well to land the Weatherbys Champion bumper in 2012 and followed that up by securing victory in last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle before being switched to chasing this term.

All went according to plan on his debut over fences, where Champagne Fever made light of a couple of small mistakes to be well in command before two out and galloped on to a convincing success over 2m 4f.

However, when dropping back in trip for a Grade 1 contest at Leopardstown on Boxing Day, a bad mistake at the penultimate obstacle proved his downfall and he could only plod on to finish third behind Defy Logic and Trifolium.

Nevertheless, Walsh feels the gelding is a worthy favourite to get the job done at Cheltenham, especially considering his past record at Prestbury Park in the month of March.

"Look at last year's Supreme, he beat Jezki and My Tent Or Yours and they are both in the reckoning for the Champion Hurdle," declared Ruby. "He's a good jumper of a fence, he's got a good cruising speed and I see no problem with him staying. You need both speed and stamina to win an Arkle. Stayers can go close in it and I think he has a bit of pace as well."

Willie Mullins has not been able to get another run into his charge since that odds-on defeat over the Christmas period but his son Patrick feels Champagne Fever can cope with having had such limited experience in his new sphere.

"I suppose only having two runs over fences wouldn't be ideal but he put in a great jumping display first time and it was fortunate he didn't come down next time as that would have dented his confidence," said Patrick. "You also can't fault his course record so I reckon he goes there with a good chance."

The Mullins team have never claimed an Arkle success, though, and only two of the last 10 victors have travelled across from Ireland, but plenty of pundits are predicting Champagne Fever can buck that trend.


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Ruby Walsh backing Champagne Fever for Cheltenham Festival hat-trick

Ruby Walsh believes Champagne Fever has just the right blend of speed and stamina to claim a hat-trick of Cheltenham Festival victories by prevailing in this year's Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase.

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