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Arkle fave Champagne Fever is Mullins’ strongest novice chaser

| 06.03.2014

Willie Mullins is on course to saddle the favourite in all three Grade 1 novice chases at Cheltenham after revealing his intentions to keep Ballycasey, Champagne Fever and Felix Yonger apart at the Festival.

Bringing a 40-strong party of raiders over from Ireland, Mullins is particularly burly in the novice division with his well-fancied trio leading the way.

But, with Ladbrokes now Non Runner No Bet on all 27 Festival races, is it worth putting any of your Prestbury Park pot on them?

Ballycasey – 5/1 for the RSA

With all of the last 14 RSA winners having at least three runs over fences, inexperience counts against Ballycasey, who has only two chases under his belt.

Despite winning both of those, including the Moriarty Novice Chase last time out, his lack of familiarity with this race type and distance is a grave cause for concern ahead of such a gruelling contest.

Mullins’ admission that the 7-yr-old fell in a recent exercise at Leopardstown only highlights how much of an unknown quantity he is.

Champagne Fever – 3/1 for the Arkle Trophy

Bidding to make it to the Festival’s winners’ enclosure for a third straight year, there’s no doubt that Champagne Fever is a high-class horse.

The Supreme Novices’ and Champion Bumper victor’s experience at Prestbury Park counts for plenty in the Arkle, as nine of the last 10 winners of it have won or placed at the meeting before.

A complimentary report from Ruby Walsh following a recent schooling indicates a lack of recent action won’t affect his chances.

Felix Yonger – 9/2 for the JLT

The Irish have won all three of these races since its introduction in 2011, but Felix Yonger’s step up in trip won’t necessarily land them a fourth.

Second to Simonsig over hurdles in the 2m 5f Neptune in 2012, the 8-yr-old has only won once over fences at the JLT’s 20 furlong trip and never at this standard.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.