Royal Bond at Fever pitch

Leading bumper horse Champagne Fever is one of seven remaining entries in the Bar One Racing Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old won the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival and the equivalent race at Punchestown in the spring, and scored as he liked on his hurdling debut at Cork earlier this month.

Mullins also has Midnight Oil and Zuzka in the mix for the two-mile Grade One, but the champion trainer is unlikely to have things all his own way.

Clonbanan Lad was a smart horse in the bumper sphere and impressed on his first start over hurdles and debut for Henry de Bromhead at Punchestown.

Jessica Harrington’s Jezki is two from two over hurdles, the Dessie Hughes-trained Minsk won easily at Punchestown last time and Ally Cascade from Noel Meade’s yard completes a high-class field.

Willie Mullins-trained duo Arvika Ligeonniere and Mikael D’Haguenet feature among eight confirmations for the Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase, also at Fairyhouse on Sunday.

High-class hurdler Arvika Ligeonniere was sidelined for over two years with injury before making a brilliant debut over fences at Punchestown in May.

Little has gone right for Mikael D’Haguenet since falling at the last when looking the likely winner of the Grade One contest in 2010.

He was, however, going to win easily at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago until being brought to a standstill by a horrendous blunder at the final obstacle.

Heading the challenge to the Mullins team is Henry de Bromhead’s Buckers Bridge, who won two bumpers and vindicated his trainer’s decision to go straight over fences with victory at Punchestown in October.

Dedigout and Sword Of Destiny add further strength in depth to a quality field.

My Murphy, Pride Of The Artic and Texas Jack complete the entries.

Last year’s winner Voler La Vedette could face up to seven rivals when she defends her crown in the Bar One Racing Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.

Colm Murphy’s star mare registered her first Grade One victory in this two-and-a-half-mile test 12 months ago and went on to chase home Big Buck’s in the World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

She suffered a shock reverse on her Navan comeback, but is likely to much straighter for her return to the highest level.

Champion trainer Willie Mullins is unsurprisingly heavy handed, with the admirable Thousand Stars joined by stablemates So Young and Zaidpour.

Edward O’Grady could saddle the talented Staying Article, while Charles Byrnes has entered Trifolium, also engaged in Saturday’s Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.

Noel Meade’s Monksland and the Dessie Hughes-trained Si C’Etait Vrai complete the field.

Meanwhile Trainer Shark Hanlon hopes Hidden Cyclone has the necessary improvement in him to take his game to the next level in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 27.

Not beaten far by Cheltenham Gold Cup ante-post favourite Sir Des Champs at Leopardstown in January, the seven-year-old missed the backend of last season with injury but appears to have returned better than ever.

After making a winning return at Naas a month ago, he followed up with a comprehensive defeat of the talented Call The Police at Navan on Sunday and is now set for a step up to Grade One level.

Hanlon said: “He’s come out of the race super, he’s as fresh as a daisy and all going well he’ll go for the Lexus.

“We’re delighted with him at the moment. He’s had his two runs back, he’s done everything right and his jumping has come right.

“He is still a long way behind a horse like Flemenstar on the ratings, but we’re hoping he’s still improving.

“Probably his best performance so far was over two miles and seven (furlongs) in Navan, so three miles won’t be a bother to him.

“We’ll look forward to the Lexus and we’ll certainly know a lot more after that.”

Meanwhile, Hanlon is on the lookout for a prospective new owner for impressive point-to-point winner Rare Legend. The five-year-old won under JT McNamara at Boulta over the weekend and although he has an imminent engagement with the sales ring, Hanlon hopes he will stay in the yard for his career under Rules.

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