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Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Champagne Fever likely to go chasing in 2013/14

| 15.10.2013

Cheltenham 2014 tips are ten-a-penny as speculation regarding the greatest show on turf begins to bubble under with the falling of the first autumn leaves, but the value of course form at Prestbury Park is never in doubt.

Champagne Fever’s proven winning knack means his name will be among calculations for the early Cheltenham 2014 odds for all the novice chases at the festival.

His trainer’s decision to enter the silver gelding in a Punchestown Festival novice chase shortly after his 2m Supreme Novices Hurdle win seems to suggest that, although the engagement was eventually spurned, his future lies over the larger obstacles.

An unexpected victory over hot favourite My Tent Or Yours in the traditional Festival curtain raiser advertised the horse’s ability to handle the demands of the track’s famous hill as he manfully held off the fast finishing jolly under Ruby Walsh.

That unexpected win came just under a year since he made his first visit to the Festival winner’s enclosure when landing odds of 16/1 in the Champion Bumper, beating the likes of The New One in the progress.

Owners Rich and Susanna Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins must now decide whether to continue campaigning the grey over the minimum trip or tackle the Jewson Chase’s 2m4f or the none-more-gruelling RSA chase over 3m.

The strong staying fashion in which Champagne Fever won the Supreme Novices Hurdle may suggest that in time a greater trip is required and his Cheltenham win owed much to the way in which jockey Walsh controlled the pace to suit his animal.

Having previously suffered in smaller fields over 2m when the gallop has not been so even, the suspicion remains that longer distances may provide the more honest tests of end-to-end stamina needed to see him at his best.