Champagne Fever, withdrawn from the Champion Chase after being bitten on the nose by a stablemate, was thought by many to be the Willie Mullins horse that got away at last month’s Cheltenham Festival.
So he has something to prove on Friday in the Melling Chase, with his supporters anticipating handsome compensation, while others wonder whether he will be quite so effective at Aintree, where he has never run before, as he so clearly has been at Cheltenham, where his record is almost perfect.
Cue Card and Sire De Grugy will be tough nuts for him to crack, but Tony McCoy’s mount Don Cossack (3.25 Aintree) would have finished a lot closer when third to Uxizandre in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham had he not been hampered at a crucial stage, finishing just over eight lengths behind the winner.
Saphir Du Rheu (2.50), runner-up to Cole Harden in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham last month, is the class act on his return to fences in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase.
Paul Nicholls put the grey’s chasing career on hold following a clumsy fall at Kempton on Boxing Day, but this was never going to be a permanent change à la Big Buck’s, who won the stayers’ hurdle prize four times for the same trainer and owner, Andy Stewart, after flopping over fences.
No current rider has a better record over the big Liverpool fences than amateur Sam Waley-Cohen and it may again pay to be on his side when he partners Rajdhani Express (4.05), a horse on the fringe of top class at his best and showing recent signs of a revival at Cheltenham, in the Topham Chase.
Glingerburn (2.15) has been impressive while running up a four-timer on the northern circuit for trainer Nicky Richards and is good enough to handle this step up in grade.Reuse content