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Felix Yonger better bet than Arkle favourite Champagne Fever

| 06.01.2014

Champagne Fever has been heading the 2014 Arkle betting ever since he breasted the tape to take the Supreme Novices Hurdle last year, but his stablemate Felix Yonger has been more impressive when tackling the minimum trip over fences.

At 8/1 to win the 2m novice chaser’s championship, Felix Yonger is available at twice the price of Willie Mullins’ more celebrated pupil.

Meanwhile, the pair can both be backed at 8/1 for the 2m4f Jewson Novices chase.

Champagne Fever has long been regarded as a staying chaser in the making, which made his victory in the Supreme Novices in 2013 all the more surprising.

However that Cheltenham success remains the only race he has won over less than 2m2f in the seven races since his debut over timber in the autumn of 2012.

After the second reverse of his three-race steeplechasing career recently, his trainer freely admitted to pondering stepping the grey up in trip, with even the 3m RSA chase mooted as a possible festival target.

His stablemate Felix Yonger may well be a familiar name to Cheltenham anoraks, having been the only rival to finish within 7l of Simonsig in the 2012 Neptune Novices Hurdle.

With the rest of the field routed, it was a promising performance, but one that Andrea and Graham Wylie’s gelding couldn’t build on last term, having been ruled out for the season through injury.

Novice chasing has come easily to the eight-year-old since, with his debut campaign in that sphere boasting three wins and a second to date.

His most recent run saw a perfect record despoiled as he ran out of gas in soft ground at Limerick, but he lost little in defeat with the going meaning his previously fluent fencing suffered.

Prior to that reverse he’d committed two of the finest novice chase performances of 2013/14 to the history books.

First he lowered the colours of Paul Nolan’s highly-rated Defy Logic by in excess of 2l with the pair more than 18l in front of the field.

That effort was followed by a 15l demolition of Trifolium at Navan in which he had his subsequent soft ground Limerick conqueror The Paparazzi Kid 23l in arrears.

Felix Yonger’s win over Defy Logic has taken on an increased significance since, with that rival besting Champagne Fever by a wide margin in the 2m1f Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Having won five of his seven starts over trips between 2m and 2m2f, there seems little doubt the gelding has the pace for an Arkle.

With doubts persisting over Champagne Fever’s ability to fence at speed it could well be the 2012 Neptune second who carries Mullins hopes in the Tuesday test.