Champagne Fever was a highly impressive winner of the Champion Bumper at the Festival last season and connectionns are already planning his route back to Prestbury Park in March. The Willie Mullins horse has already made a winning debut over hurdles this season but he will face his toughest task yet this weekend as he takes his chance in the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novices Hurdle. The Fairyhouse race is one of the key early season trials in Ireland when it comes to the novice hurdlers and Champagne Fever will start a hot favourite to take the win. Connections clearly rate the horse very highly and a win for Champagne Fever will see him join an illustrious list of former Royal Bond Novices Hurdle winners. Perhaps the most famous name on that list is Hurricane Fly who won at Fairyhouse in 2008 before embarking on a stunning career which included a Champion Hurdle win in 2011 for Mullins. The Champion Irish Trainer has farmed the race in recent years with three wins from the last four renewals and most expect another Mullins in-mate to be added to that list on Sunday.
At the moment Champagne Fever is expected to head towards the Neptune Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with two and half miles expected to suit the Champion Bumper winner. A win on Sunday in testing ground could see his price for the Festival race trimmed further as the hype continues to build around the horse. The Royal Bond Novices Hurdle is never an easy race to win though and the favourite will need to deal with a top class opponent in the form of the exciting Minsk. The Dessie Hughes horse won his Maiden over hurdles in some style at Punchestown earlier this month and he looks the sort of improving type to keep a very close eye on this season. In truth though it would be a surprise to see Champagne Fever beaten on Sunday as connections look to continue his serene progress towards Cheltenham in March and potentially a second festival win on the bounce.