Minella Indo heads a small but select field of five runners declared for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Henry de Bromhead’s charge is a short-priced favourite to bounce back from an uncharacteristic fall in the Savills Chase over the course and distance in December and reaffirm his claims for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.
The eight-year-old is reopposed by three other horses who contested the Savills Chase in Kemboy, Melon and Delta Work.
The Willie Mullins-trained pair of Kemboy and Melon finished a close-up second and third behind De Bromhead’s A Plus Tard just under six weeks ago, while Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work – who won the Savills Chase and the Irish Gold Cup last season – unseated his rider.
With stable jockey Paul Townend siding with Melon, Danny Mullins takes over in the saddle from his newly-retired cousin David Mullins aboard Kemboy.
He said: “He’s got a good chance in it and it’s great to renew the partnership with him.
“I actually rode him on his chasing debut in Fairyhouse a few years ago, when he ran a good race to finish second to Sutton Place. He’s won plenty of good races since then and seems in good order, so hopefully he’ll run a big race.
“Ruth Dudfield usually rides him in all his work and seems pleased with him.”
The quintet is completed by Elliott’s second string The Storyteller, who was last seen finishing second behind Flooring Porter in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle.
Potential Gold Cup horses of the future contest the preceding Flogas Novice Case, which stages a third clash between the Mullins-trained Monkfish and Paul Nolan’s stable star Latest Exhibition.
Monkfish denied Latest Exhibition by a neck when landing the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival, but was more authoritative when winning a Grade One over fences at this venue in December.
The Rich Ricci-owned seven-year-old is odds-on to confirm his superiority, despite dropping back from three miles to an extended two miles and five furlongs.
Mullins also saddles Asterion Forlonge, who needs to bounce back after successive falls, as well as Janidil.
Gordon Elliott’s Andy Dufresne also features in a nine-strong field.
Mullins also houses the red-hot favourite for the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle in Appreciate It, who was a hugely impressive winner over the course and distance last time and already heads ante-post lists for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The son of Jeremy is joined by no less than five stable companions in Blue Lord, N’golo, Galopin Des Champs, Mr Coldstone and Hook Up.
Elliott’s Ballyadam, De Bromhead’s Irascible and Paddy Corkery’s Master McShee are among the opposition.
The first of four Grade Ones on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival is the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle, in which Elliott’s Quilixios puts his unbeaten record on the line.
Mullins is represented by Ha D’or, Saint Sam and Youmdor, but his new recruit French Aseel has not been declared.
Mullins again appears to hold all the aces in the concluding N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares I.N.H. Flat Race – with five of the 11 runners hailing from Closutton.
The trainer’s son Patrick has sided with Brandy Love over Brooklynn Glory (Barry O’Neill), Purple Mountain (Tom Hamilton), Take Tea (Derek O’Connor) and Grangee (Jody Townend).
The big danger appears to be Hollymount, who makes her first start for Elliott having recently been snapped up for £300,000.