Acapella Bourgeois bids to provide his owners with back-to-back victories in the Goffs Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park on Thursday.
The Willie Mullins-trained 11-year-old carries the colours of the Slaneyville Syndicate, who landed the prestigious handicap 12 months ago with the now-retired Total Recall.
Acapella Bourgeois could finish only sixth when well-fancied for last year’s renewal, since when he has won the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse and finished second to his Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning stablemate Al Boum Photo at Tramore on New Year’s Day, just as he did last season.
The veteran must concede weight all round under champion jockey Paul Townend, who has sided with him over four of his stable companions.
Lar Byrne, who is part of the Slaneyville Syndicate along with members of his family, has enjoyed plenty of success as an owner, most notably with the tough-as-teak dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace.
He said: “We’re looking forward to Thursday. It’s a shame we won’t be able to be there, but we’ll all be watching on from home.
“Acapella had a very good run in Tramore on New Year’s Day – finishing second to Al Boum Photo again. We were very happy with the run.
“He’s carrying top-weight, but he appears to be in very good form. He’s ticking the boxes, but it’s a big ask.
“He’s getting on in years, but we said the same about Total Recall last year and he went and won it as an an 11-year-old.
“It’s going to be tough, but he’s going into the race healthy and well and we’re hoping for the best.”
Mullins, who has saddled four of the last seven winners of the biggest race of the season at his local track, is also represented by Brahma Bull, Cabaret Queen, last year’s runner-up Class Conti and Saturnas.
Gordon Elliott declared six runners, with Alpha Des Obeaux, Roaring Bull, Dounikos, Coko Beach and Run Wild Fred joined by second reserve Aforementioned.
Other contenders include Henry de Bromhead’s Spyglass Hill and the Ted Walsh-trained Any Second Now.
The main supporting race is the Grade Two John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle, in which Mullins runs Bacardys, Burrows Saint, Scarpeta and Great White Shark. The latter is particularly interesting on her first competitive start since winning the Cesarewitch at Newmarket.
Mouse Morris is keeping his fingers crossed for a bold showing from Sams Profile, who reverts to hurdling following a couple of spins over fences since returning from a lengthy absence.
The seven-year-old was narrowly beaten in a Grade One novice hurdle at the 2019 Punchestown Festival, but was not seen again until falling on his chasing bow at Thurles in November.
He ran with plenty of credit when third behind behind the exciting Monkfish at Fairyhouse nine days later, after which he was found to be suffering from a minor injury.
Morris said: “It’s got too late in the season to be trying to win a beginners’ chase, so we thought we’d switch him back to hurdles.
“He ran a very good race at Fairyhouse, considering he had a fractured rib. He’d obviously picked that up in the fall at Thurles and we didn’t find it until after he ran the last day.
“We’ll see how we go on Thursday.”