Midnight is set to eclipse Neptune

Neptune Collonges aims to set the record straight at Cheltenham following an unfortunate mishap in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

Paul Nicholls's nine-year-old made a protracted return at Newbury last month after suffering a tendon injury in the 2009 Gold Cup, in which he finished fourth.

The best-laid plans went awry, however, as he was brought down at the fourth fence in the Berkshire showpiece.

Having escaped unscathed from that setback, Neptune Collonges –second in the 2006 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby – must now shoulder top weight in the Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase.

"He had no ill-effects from what happened in the Hennessy," said owner John Hales, who is most famously associated with the late, great One Man.

"He was unlucky because he jumped the fence beautifully and was brought down. The horse is fine and Paul has been very happy with him at home.

"We've got Ryan Mahon to ride him. He claims 5lb so we carry 11st 7lb.

"He'll improve for the run but I'd still expect him to run well – I'd be still hopeful he'd finish in the first three.

"He's the class horse in the race and has the form on the book.

"We're hoping all goes well and then we'll go back for the Lexus in Ireland."

Midnight Chase has catapulted fledgling trainer Neil Mulholland into the big time, and returns to his beloved Cheltenham seeking a fourth consecutive success this season.

He is tipped to deny Neptune Collonges. The deeply-progressive eight-year-old was last seen landing a Grade Three handicap by eight lengths at the track and is again likely to make all of the running under Dougie Costello, the Malton-based jockey who is enjoying a profitable relationship with Mulholland.

Mulholland said: "He's in flying form and I'm happy enough with the handicapper's reaction of putting him up 9lb.

"If all of the handicappers put our horses up 9lb for an eight-length win I'd be happy.

"I think the faster ground will suit him better than it did last time.

"He doesn't have to make all of the running, but he'll be handy. If we can make it we will, but it won't be the end of the world if he doesn't.

"He's a good horse, but we still don't know how good he is."

Meanwhile, the Cheltenham two-day meeting – weather permitting – has been overshadowed by Noel Fehily being declared unfit to ride by the BHA medical team.

Fehily, who has been deputising for the injured Ruby Walsh,

suffered a wrist injury when falling at last month's Hennessy Gold Cup meeting at Newbury, but had hoped to return to action at Cheltenham today.

And even though the jockey had been schooling at Nicholls's yard yesterday, he now misses the headline mount on Master Minded in tomorrow's Keith Prowse Hospitality Tingle Creek Chase.

"The doctor has stood me down, but I can't understand why because he hasn't even seen me yet this morning," said a clearly disappointed Fehily.

"I've been schooling this morning so it seems a bit harsh to me, but that's the way it is."

Champion jockey Tony McCoy has been booked to ride Master Minded in Saturday's Grade One while Sam Thomas takes the eyecatching ride on Al Ferof – owned by the aforementioned Hales – later today.

Although no match for the hugely impressive Cue Card in the Champion Bumper in March, the five-year-old came home clear of the rest and he will jump obstacles for the first time in public in the EBF "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle at Prestbury Park.

"We've had a bit of a blow with Noel being failed by the doctor, but we've got Sam Thomas in to ride him," said Hales.

"He's going to be a three-miler in time, but he has the speed to win bumpers as well, which is nice.

"We've been delighted with the way he's schooled at home and to be honest, I'd be disappointed if he didn't win."

Tony McCoy will not be in the saddle when his Grand National hero Don't Push It reappears today in a 17-runner handicap hurdle.

The 15-times champion jockey has opted to ride Jonjo O'Neill's stablemate Synchronised – proof that McCoy's hunger for winners is stronger than loyalty to the horse that gave him an emotional first success in the world's most famous steeplechase back in April.

Nevertheless Frank Berry, racing manager to owner JP McManus, is looking forward to getting his season under way at Prestbury Park.

"It's nice to get him back out and Jonjo is very happy with him," said Berry. "He's in good form and we'll just see how he gets on before we make any plans.

"We've no major targets until Aintree and we'll just take each race as it comes."