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Cheltenham Festival next step for Arkle favourite Champagne Fever

Champagne Fever looks set to bid for a hat-trick of Cheltenham Festival victories by competing in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase without the benefit of a warm-up run after Willie Mullins ruled out a trip to Navan on Sunday.

The popular grey was entered for the Grade 2 Flyingbolt Novice Chase over in Ireland, having been absent since finishing third behind Defy Logic as an odds-on favourite at Leopardstown on Boxing Day.

With a previous facile Punchestown success being his only other public spin over fences, Mullins had also considered stepping up in trip for the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase last weekend but instead won that with Ballycasey.

However, given Champagne Fever has peaked at just the right time to prevail in the 2012 Champion Bumper and last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle, when getting the better of My Tent Or Yours and Jezki, connections will not lack confidence when returning to Prestbury Park.

Mullins cited heavy ground at Navan as his reason for sidestepping this weekend's and told the Racing Post: "We were happier with him this week compared to last weekend when we decided to by-pass the Grade 1 novice at Leopardstown. However, Cheltenham is closing in and we're going to send him straight there."

Although the seven-year-old is also entered in the JLT Novices' Chase over 2m 4f and the 3m RSA Chase, Mullins is expected to opt for the Arkle over 2m after dropping back in distance at last year's Festival.

Mullins will let promising hurdler Un De Sceaux take his chance at Gowran Park on Saturday, with a crack at the Stan James Champion Hurdle still very much a possibility for this highly-rated six-year-old, who is unbeaten in six starts under rules.

After picking up a couple of bumper wins in his native France, he struck twice at Punchestown last spring and has continued on an upward curve this term, making all to power home by wide margins at Thurles and Navan.

Un De Sceaux will only face three rivals in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle but Mullins is not concerned by the fact that he may have to go to the Festival without having had a stiff test, commenting: "I'm not worried at all that if he runs at Cheltenham he will not have faced a tough test, I'm quite happy building him up step by step."


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Cheltenham Festival next step for Arkle favourite Champagne Fever

Champagne Fever looks set to bid for a hat-trick of Cheltenham Festival victories by competing in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase without the benefit of a warm-up run after Willie Mullins ruled out a trip to Navan on Sunday.

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