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Jezki can turn tables on Cheltenham conqueror Champagne Fever

Willie Mullins’ Champagne Fever bids to register a Cheltenham/Punchestown festival double for the second successive season, but the Rich Ricci-owned grey’s stamina-laden style is not best suited to trappy small field affairs. Jezki has already bested him in a boutique contest this term and can so again in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at 4:20.

Glancing at the recent record of Willie Mullins’ inmates on Punchestown Festival eve, it’s no surprise to see the Carlow handler’s horses in lethal form, with six winners from 12 runners during the last fortnight. This rates as potentially ominous news for Champagne Fever’s rivals, as does the heavy ground expected in Kildare.

The Supreme Novices Hurdle winner sluiced through the mud to take last year’s Grade 1 bumper at Punchestown in abominable conditions, marking the durable beast out who’ll relish the testing surface more than most.

However the size of the field he faces this year may be against a horse who is seen at his best off the kind of searching gallop more often seen in better attended races. In two contests where he’s faced less than five rivals Champagne Fever has yet to win. The two races in question – both this season – were won by Jezki and Rule The World.

Rule The World has largely plied his trade at 2m4f, but Mouse Morris’ Neptune Novices Hurdle second proved he’s not all about stamina when winning a 2m course and distance maiden on heavy ground by 13 lengths in October.

However Jezki is more of a dyed-in-the-wool speedster, winning six of eight races over the basement trip, but the doubt over Jessica Harrington’s hurdler would be the ground, with the five-year-old yet to race on heavy. Nonetheless his win over Champagne Fever came on soft ground on in a small field where tactical speed could be the deciding factor his he can overcome his Cheltenham conqueror.

For Jezki the booking of star pilot Barry Geraghty is a further positive omen – Nicky Henderson’s stable jockey has scored aboard three of the six rides he’s had for the Harrington yard this term.