Chacun Pour Soi is the star attraction in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Odds-on backers had their fingers burnt when the Willie Mullins-trained gelding was beaten by A Plus Tard in last year’s renewal of the Grade One contest.
He rewarded those who kept the faith when seeing off esteemed stablemate Min at the Dublin Racing Festival, though, before an eleventh-hour setback ruled him out of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
With a return to the Cotswolds top of the agenda for the spring, Chacun Pour Soi made a successful start to the new campaign in last month’s Hilly Way Chase at Cork, and Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, expects him to prove hard to beat this weekend.
He said: “He obviously got beat here last year when he went there without a run. We gave him a run this year, and again it looked like he needed it in Mallow (Cork) as he got tired.
“On official ratings he has 9lb in hand over Notebook. On a line through Cash Back, who was just behind Notebook in the Irish Arkle in Leopardstown last season, we’d like to think Chacun will be able to take care of him.
“You’ve got Put The Kettle On in there as well, but if Chacun Pour Soi runs to his rating of 172 he should win, and that’s what we’re hoping he’ll do.”
Chacun Pour Soi is one of two runners for Mullins and his principal owners Rich and Susannah Ricci along with outsider Annamix.
“He’s very brave to jump and likes to get on with it, so we’re coming back to two miles in the thinking that his jumping might well keep him in it. If he can run into the prize-money, that would be a great run,” Mullins junior added of the latter.
Notebook won his first four starts fences last season – and while he disappointed in the Arkle at Cheltenham, he bounced back to form on his seasonal reappearance in the Poplar Square Chase at Naas.
The seven-year-old will be ridden by Rachael Blackmore, who said: “We couldn’t have been happier with him after Naas and he’s going to come on fitness-wise from that run.
“It gives you a big thrill riding a horse like him. He has incredible scope and extremely good use of himself – even when he’s in tight, he’s able to get from one side of a fence to the other very efficiently at speed.”
Notebook’s trainer Henry de Bromhead also saddles the Arkle winner in Put The Kettle On after travel restrictions between Britain and Ireland prevented her from taking on Altior in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton.
The field is completed by Pat Fahy’s Castlegrace Paddy and the Joseph O’Brien-trained Le Richebourg. The latter can be expected to improve for his first run since February 2019 when pulled up in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase three weeks ago.
The other Grade One on day two of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival is the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle, which throws up an intriguing clash between the Mullins-trained Appreciate It and Gordon Elliott’s Royal Bond winner Ballyadam.
Appreciate It was runner-up to currently-sidelined stablemate Ferny Hollow in last season’s Champion Bumper and made a successful hurdling debut at Cork last month, but has always been considered more of a stayer by connections.
Patrick Mullins said: “He’s a very good horse over two miles on decent ground, but whether it’s going to see him at his very best, I’m not so sure. I think he’s probably more of a horse for two and a half miles plus.
“He won around Leopardstown twice last year, so he obviously handles the track and the type of ground that the track brings.
“Might he get caught for a gear here? Maybe. Those real good horses can probably win over most trips and it will be a fascinating race, without doubt.
“If he does get caught for toe, we won’t be too disappointed. We can always go up in trip then.”
Mullins is also expecting a bold showing from Royal Bond third N’Golo, adding: “He shouldn’t be forgotten. I think the race will really suit him and he was not far behind Ballyadam in the Royal Bond, when he maybe didn’t get the run of the race.”
Elliott is hopeful the Cheveley Park Stud-owned Ballyadam can make it three from three over hurdles.
He told Betfair: “Ballyadam looks to have a leading chance having won his first two runs this season which included the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse last month.
“He didn’t jump wonderfully in the Royal Bond, but Jack (Kennedy) was keen to get in amongst horses and teach him something that day so the experience he picked up there should help him sharpen up with regard to his hurdling.
“He’s a very talented horse who I hope will be up there with the top novices at the end of the season, but this race should tell us plenty more about his prospects as he is taking on some very smart types. I’m expecting him to be right there at the finish.”
Elliott also runs Call Me Lyreen, and added: “He is a lovely horse who has yet to be beaten and has answered every question asked of him so far. After winning at Tramore and Sligo he coped well with a big rise in class to win a Grade Two in good style at Naas last month.
“I think he can improve again and the switch to decent ground will help him. He is stepping up in class once more, but he’s coming forward all the time and he is certainly worth his place in the line up. I could see him running another big race.