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Watching Brief

After Champagne Fever ground out two brave Champion Bumper victories at Cheltenham and Punchestown, Willie Mullins hinted that he might send the Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old straight over fences this term.

During the off-season, there was then a suggestion that the champion trainer was leaning towards a more conventional hurdling campaign with the angular grey, but he revealed yesterday that the fatal injury recently suffered by the same owner's Sous Les Cieux had prompted another rethink.

Skipping hurdling was a policy that worked a treat with Mullins' brilliant 1997 Champion Bumper hero Florida Pearl, so it was no surprise to see Champagne Fever subsequently trimmed to a best-priced 14/1 to emulate that equine legend in the RSA Chase back at Prestbury Park next March.

Irish Independent