Star field for Slaney Novice Hurdle
Updated: Friday, 04 Jan 2013 15:03
Champagne Fever and Minsk aim to give the red-hot form of last month's Royal Bond another significant boost in the Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday.
Royal Bond winner Jezki is ante-post favourite for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham after following up his Fairyhouse victory with a brilliant display at Leopardstown over the Festive period.
The Royal Bond third Zuzka has also enjoyed subsequent success in Graded company.
Champagne Fever and Minsk, respective second and fourth at Fairyhouse, now lock horns again in an intriguing Grade Two contest.
Last season's Champion Bumper hero Champagne Fever is tackling two and a half miles for the first time and champion trainer Willie Mullins believes the extra distance will be in his favour.
"Hopefully the step up in trip will suit him and the ground should be fine," said Mullins.
"The Royal Bond form looks very good after what Jezki did at Leopardstown over Christmas.
"Hopefully Champagne Fever can confirm that."
Minsk has a little over five lengths to find with Champagne Fever on the Fairyhouse form, but trainer Dessie Hughes is confident it will be more of a race this time.
"I hope we might be able to turn the form around," said Hughes.
"I think I might have run him back a bit quick in the Royal Bond.
"It was only a couple of weeks after his first run of the season in Punchestown and I think he might just have run a bit flat on the day.
"He's an Irish Cesarewitch winner and he might just be a better horse over two and a half miles over hurdles.
"But, having said that, he wasn't done for foot the last day - he turned into the straight like the winner.
"He seems in good form at home - he's perfect - and I'm very happy with him."
Hughes also saddles Captain Arceus, who has plenty to do at the ratings.
"He's a consistent horse. It's a Grade Two race and we have to let him take his chance," said the County Kildare trainer.
Mouse Morris is hoping Rule The World can build on his impressive win at Navan in early December.
The Tipperary trainer said: "It's a good race and the ground is a bit soft for our fellow, but it's going to be soft ground wherever you go.
"We had him in at Leopardstown over Christmas but we decided to wait for this.
"He's in good shape and hopefully he can run a big race.
"We won't think about Cheltenham and things like that until we see how he get on this weekend."