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Last Updated: 26/12/13 4:47pm
Arvika Ligeonniere: Leopardstown hopeful
Connections of Arvika Ligeonniere are under no illusions about the task facing the talented chaser as he tackles proven champion Sizing Europe in a fascinating Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown.
Arvika Ligeonniere enjoyed an excellent novice campaign over fences last season, but jumped out to his right when winning the Racing Post Novice Chase at this fixture a year ago and then fell in the Irish Arkle over the same course and distance.
Willie Mullins' charge also disappointed left-handed in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham, but is unbeaten in three starts back on right-handed tracks since, most recently claiming the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
Mullins' son Patrick is not concerned about going the other way round in Friday's Grade One feature, but has the utmost respect for Henry de Bromhead's brilliant stable star, saying: "He is in great form, and he won a Grade One going this way before.
"He jumps and travels and the trip won't be a problem, but Sizing Europe is the benchmark."
Victory in this race a year ago was one of four triumphs last season for the 11-year-old Sizing Europe and he was not disgraced behind Sprinter Sacre at Cheltenham and Punchestown in the spring.
The veteran made a winning return at Gowran Park, but having been held in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal over three miles, he now comes back to two miles and a furlong.
De Bromhead said: "He seems in great form at home. We're very happy with him going into the race.
"Arvika Ligeonniere looks very good, but we'll give it a go and see what happens."
Sizing Europe's jockey Andrew Lynch said: "I'm looking forward to the race and our lad is in good form at home. The way he's going you wouldn't think he's an 11-year-old.
"Arvika Ligeonniere has been very impressive so far this season, so it will be an interesting race.
"We're very happy with our horse."
Baily Green was beaten just over a length by Sizing Europe at Gowran Park and reopposes for trainer Mouse Morris.
He said: "I couldn't have been happier with him at Gowran Park and it was unfortunate that he had a hiccup afterwards, but that's racing and it's not held him up at all.
"He would probably prefer a bit of a give in the ground now that he's getting a bit older and while he runs on anything, he's a horse who goes well with give.
"He is effective over two and two and a half miles - he ran over the latter at Gowran because there were limited condition chases over the two around that time."
Rubi Light ran a blinder to finish second to Sizing Europe in this race a year ago, but was no match for Arvika Ligeonniere at Punchestown last time.
His trainer Robbie Hennessy said: "It's a hell of a race, but at least we are going to get proper soft ground for the first time this winter. It will be the worst ground we've had this season, which will suit us.
"I'm not saying we're going to turn the tables on Arvika Ligeonniere or anything like that, but we're putting a tongue-tie on our horse for the first time as he's just made a noise once or twice during work at home, so that won't do him any harm.
"He was second in this race last year and was second in the Lexus the year before, so he likes Leopardstown and the ground should suit.
"At the back of my mind I'm thinking maybe Arvika Ligeonniere isn't as good going left-handed, they were saying that all last year, but to be honest, he looks a different horse this season."
Shark Hanlon's Hidden Cyclone steps up in grade having run an excellent race to finish third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in mid-November.
The trainer admits his charge has plenty on his plate.
Hanlon said: "It's a very good race, but our lad is in great form and we're going to step him up to this grade and see how he gets on.
"He ran a big race in Cheltenham the last day and we're hoping he'll run a big race again, but either way we'll have a better idea about where we're going afterwards.
"We're hoping he might be good enough to go back to Cheltenham in March, but this will tell us a lot more."
Nicky Henderson's British raider Kid Cassidy is an interesting contender having beaten subsequent Tingle Creek scorer Sire De Grugy on his latest start at Cheltenham.
Henderson said: "He's got a tough task. It's his first time out of handicap company, but he's in good form, so we're giving it a go."
Tony Martin's Benefficient completes the seven-strong field.