Leopardstown at Fever-pitch
Champagne Fever is the star turn in the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase on the opening day of the Christmas meeting at Leopardstown.
Winner of the 2012 Champion Bumper before beating My Tent Or Yours in a barnstorming Supreme Novices' Hurdle last season, the flying grey is already a short-priced favourite to complete the Cheltenham hat-trick in the Arkle Trophy next March.
Willie Mullins' six-year-old certainly looked the part when making a winning debut over fences at Punchestown last month and he is faced with five opponents as he returns to the highest level on Thursday.
Mullins said: "Champagne Fever has been good since his first run and we're happy to let him take his chance.
"Hopefully there is more improvement in him now he has that experience of having a run over fences under his belt."
Heading the opposition is the Paul Nolan-trained Defy Logic, who bolted up on his chasing bow at Naas before finding Mullins' Felix Yonger too strong in Punchestown's Craddockstown Novice Chase.
Nolan feels his charge is better than he showed that day, but admits Champagne Fever will be a tough nut to crack.
"It's a good race and Willie has the horse that is going to be very hard to beat again. Champagne Fever is going to be a short-priced favourite and deservedly so, as he's a champion racehorse," said the trainer.
"I'm hoping there is a bit more improvement in our horse. I was a bit disappointed after Punchestown. He wasn't great at the second-last or the last and got cannoned into by another horse early on.
"I don't want to make excuses as he was beaten by a better horse on the day, but hopefully the ground is going to be soft in Leopardstown and what I want is for him to run his race with no excuses."
Noel Meade's Road To Riches performed well when third in the Drinmore and comes back in distance, while Dessie Hughes' Art Of Logistics was fifth in that Fairyhouse race and tries again.
The sextet is completed by the Charles Byrnes-trained Trifolium and Tony Martin's Ted Veale.