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14 Feb 2011 | 19:15
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Fever has something to proveHeadlines
Champagne Fever

Champagne Fever bids to get his season back on track in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Last season's star bumper horse having landed the championship events at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals, the six-year-old made a smart debut over obstacles at Cork in mid-November.

The grey was far from disgraced when second to leading novice Jezki in the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse next time, but then ran deplorably when long odds-on for a Grade Two contest at Naas a month ago.

He was subsequently found to be suffering from a respiratory problem and while Willie Mullins has been happy with his charge since, he is taking nothing for granted as he lines up against a number of top-class prospects.

The trainer said: "Champagne Fever is coming back and I've been quite happy with him since his last run. He needs to go and show what he's made of now, but I think he has a bit to prove in top-class company."

Dessie Hughes plays a strong hand with both Minsk and Bright New Dawn taking their chances in the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest.

Hughes said: "Minsk is very well and I think he'll appreciate the better ground he'll hopefully get as it was very testing in Naas the last day. Bright New Dawn should run a nice race as well, he'll go on any ground. They are rated exactly the same and it would be difficult to choose between them."

The sole British representative is the John Ferguson-trained Buthelezi, who certainly looked the part on his hurdling bow at Aintree in December but now takes a significant step up in class.

Ferguson said: "He had very good form on the Flat. It's a big step from a maiden at Aintree to a Grade One at Leopardstown, but he's very well and deserves to take his chance."

Dermot Weld's Waaheb has an obvious chance on the strength of his second to Jezki at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting, while Jim Culloty's Legal Exit and Tony Martin's pair Umpact and Wingtips complete the eight-runner field.

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