Arkle favourite Champagne Fever bids to beat the stats in Moriarty
The 2m 5f contest is better known as a stepping stone to the RSA Chase at the Festival with Florida Pearl (1998), Cooldine (2009) and most recently Bostons Angel in 2011 having all completed the double.
Although Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old does hold an entry in the RSA as well as the JLT Novices’
Chase at the Festival, for which he is 12/1 and 6/1 respectively with Coral, he is widely expected to go for the Arkle. It is worth mentioning Mullins also has Felix Younger primed for Arkle and may not want to run both in the same race.
Jockey Ruby Walsh believes that the stiff two miles and strong pace in the Arkle is “tailor¬made” for him. Interestingly the horse won a 2m 2f in his final prep race last year before dropping back in trip to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
That was his second successive victory at the Festival following his triumph in the 2011 Champion Bumper, and his unbeaten record at the venue has to be a major plus.
However, he is looking to bounce back from getting turned over at odds on last time out when finishing just third to Defy Logic in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown. A bad mistake stopped him in his tracks before getting eventually being beaten by 14 1/2 lengths.
This should not be a worry though judging on last year’s return to form after a poor Christmas period over the hurdles.
Since then he has impressed in a schooling session after racing at Punchestown last Sunday, after which Walsh pronounced him to be “in good form and really well”.
He will certainly not have it easy this weekend with the likes of Don Cossack and Carlingford Lough set to take him on in the 2m 5f contest.
The former is trained by Noel Meade and made an impressive start to his chasing career when scoring by 20 lengths at Galway.
He then lost by just 1/2 a length to Morning Assembly in a Grade 2 at Punchestown before resuming winning ways with a 1 3/4 length beating of Carlingford Lough in the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse.
The seven-year-old holds several entries at the Festival and is 10/1 with Coral for RSA Chase, 16/1 for the JLT Novices’ Chase and 25/1 for the Arkle.
John Kiely – trained Carlingford Lough, who landed a huge gamble in last year’s Galway Plate, has gone on to land the Grade 1 Topaz Chase at Leopardstown since being beaten by Don Cossack.
He showed a really game attitude that day to beat Morning Assembly by 1 1/2 lengths and looks a live contender for the RSA Chase at the Festival for which he is currently the 8/1 joint-favourite with Coral.
The other entries for the Moriarty are Champagne Fever’s stable companion Ballycasey, Dessie Hughes’ Bright New Dawn, the Ted Walsh – trained Foxrock and the Alan and Anne Potts – owned