Felix Desjy and Darver Star will renew rivalry in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on Saturday.
The Grade One contest is the feature event on the first of four days that make up the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, with a six high-class novices set to go to post.
Gavin Cromwell’s Darver Star finished runner-up in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown and third in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham last season, and made a successful start to his career over fences at Punchestown in October.
However, he was no match for Felix Desjy in a Grade Two affair at the same venue the following month and Gordon Elliott’s charge is again in opposition this weekend.
Willie Mullins saddles both Blackbow and Franco De Port, with Henry de Bromhead’s Benruben and Embittered from Joseph O’Brien’s yard completing the sextet.
The main supporting race is the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle, in which Elliott’s Zanahiyr is the star attraction.
The Nathaniel gelding was hugely impressive in winning a Grade Three contest at Fairyhouse last month and will be well fancied to give weight and a beating to six rivals at Grade Two level.
His opponents include Mullins’ Fairyhouse runner-up Saint Sam, his stablemate Ha D’or and the Jessica Harrington-trained Autumn Evening.
Elsewhere on the card, Mullins unleashes high-class Flat performer Micro Manage over obstacles in the “Join tote.ie With A 10 Euro Risk Free Bet” Maiden Hurdle.
The champion trainer also has several big chances on day two at the Dublin track, with Chacun Pour Soi the undoubted headline act in the Grade One Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase.
The eight-year-old is the odds-on favourite off the back of winning the Hilly Way Chase at Cork, with Annamix a second string for both Mullins and owner Rich Ricci.
Ricci’s racing manager, Joe Chambers, said of Chacun Pour Soi: “He’s been absolutely fine since Cork, touch wood, although there’s still four days until the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase. He went there last year without a run which he has had this year and hopefully he’s come forward fitness wise and we think he has.
“Obviously the shape of the race has changed now with Put The Kettle On, the Arkle winner, going for it and you’ve got Notebook in there as well so it’s going to be a competitive race. We’re looking forward to seeing how he gets on and shapes up against last year’s novices.
“Cork was fine – he looked pretty tired afterwards and it was advertised at the time that Willie’s horses were either winning despite a possible lack of fitness.
“He managed to win despite this and while he didn’t jump as fluently as he can, we’re hoping for an improved performance.”
Chacun Pour Soi currently heads Paddy Power’s Queen Mother Champion Chase market at 11-4 with Politologue and Altior both on 6-1. Asked what he thought of those odds, Chambers replied: “We’re not paying too much attention to that.
“Obviously Politologue won it last year and we do have some unfinished business in the race after the likes of Douvan, Min and Chacun Pour Soi either disappointing or not getting the run of the race, but we’ll just take each race as it comes.
“I’d say if things did go well for him at Leopardstown, the Dublin Chase would be next more than likely, but it’s not all about the destination. It should be about the journey and this is an important race in its own right.”
Henry de Bromhead runs both Notebook and Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On, Pat Fahy saddles stable star Castlegrace Paddy and O’Brien is represented by Le Richebourg.
The Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle throws up an intriguing clash between the Mullins-trained Appreciate It, runner-up to currently-sidelined stablemate Ferny Hollow in last season’s Champion Bumper, and Elliott’s Royal Bond winner Ballyadam.
Klassical Dream makes his chasing debut on the undercard for the Mullins team, while Castlebawn West heads a maximum field of 22 for the 150,000 euro Paddy Power Chase.