Willie Mullins saddles half of this field and we must assume that CHAMPAGNE FEVER is the pick with Ruby Walsh on board. His mount, the winner of championship bumpers at Cheltenham and Punchestown, had little to beat on his hurdling debut at Cork but did it well enough and can take high rank among the novices this season. Jezki was well behind the selection at Cheltenham but has done really well since turning to hurdling and made a big impression when easily landing a Grade 3 at Naas. There's much more to come from the four-year-old, who should have the edge in speed over Minsk, though the latter has been in excellent form both on the Flat and over timber so should prove a threat. The remaining trio are all useful but will need to raise their game against potentially top-class rivals.
Champagne Fever (IRE) 1-8fav (11-12) Soon led and jumped well, going best up the straight, eased clear run-in, won at Cork 2m mdn hdl sft in Nov beating Andunowhat (11-0) by 5l, 22 ran.
Clonbanan Lad (IRE) 8-11fav (11-12) Made all, went clear entering straight, pushed out from last, stayed on well, easily, won at Punchestown 2m mdn hdl sft in Oct beating Operating (11-12) by 3l, 14 ran.
Jezki (IRE) 13-8fav (10-13) Tracked leaders in 4th, good headway approaching straight and challenged 2 out, led before last and drew clear run-in, easily, won at Naas 2m hdl Grade 3 (1) in Nov beating Un Beau Matin (10-13) by 8l, 8 ran.
Midnight Oil 9-1 (11-0) Chased leaders, slight mistake 4th, slightly slow next, no extra 3 out, last of 10, well behind Burrenbridge Lodge (11-3) at Fairyhouse 2m 4yo hdl Grade 2 (1) in Feb.
Minsk (IRE) 4-9fav (11-7) Chased leaders in 3rd, led before 5 out, clear advantage before 3 out, pushed out from last, easily, won at Punchestown 2m 4f 4yo mdn hdl hvy in Nov beating Glens Melody (11-0) by 9l, 11 ran.
Zuzka (IRE) 7-2 (10-9) Held up in mid-division, 7th halfway, headway in 4th entering straight, travelled well into 2nd before 2 out, led after 2 out, shaken up to assert before last, soon clear, easily, won at Limerick 2m 5f nov hdl Grd 3 (1) sft in Oct beating Dara Tango (11-5) by 11l, 9 ran.