Willie Mullins’ pair of Saint Roi and Saldier head six in contention for the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown.
Saint Roi has won three of his four starts for Mullins to date, signing off last term with an impressive County Hurdle success at Cheltenham before returning with a bloodless five-and-a-half-length verdict in a Tipperary Grade Three.
While the five-year-old arrives with the benefit of a run, stablemate Saldier would be having his first start on Sunday since winning this Grade One event last November.
The six-year-old shocked odds-on favourite and fellow Mullins inmate Klassical Dream 12 months ago, but did not run again after suffering a setback.
Mullins has won the last nine renewals of the race. His chief rival this time appears to be Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras, who suffered a surprise reverse at the hands of Aspire Tower on his return in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal last month.
The winner’s stablemate Jason The Militant was back in third in that Grade Two event, and trainer Henry de Bromhead is planning to give him a chance at the top level this weekend.
He said: “I’d say we’ll have a go at the Morgiana this week. It’s a little bit quicker back than I normally would, but he’s tough.
“Paul (Townend) said he felt he might have started to race a little bit sooner than he ideally wanted to, and he said he took a good blow after the last (at Down Royal). I thought with his Flat run at Fairyhouse when he won, that would have had him spot on, but I’d left him a little bit short.
“He will come on for his run the other day. He’s a good horse, so it will be interesting to see him in the Morgiana.”
Jessica Harrington’s three-time Grade One winner Supasundae and the Gearoid O’Loughlin-trained Coeur Sublime complete the possibles.
Latest Exhibition is one of nine entries for the Grade Two Liam & Valerie Brennan Florida Pearl Novice Chase.
A Grade One scorer over hurdles, he made a winning chase bow for Paul Nolan at this track last month, but he could face some stiff opposition this time.
Elliott has Galway first and second Pencilfulloflead and Coko Beach, plus Run Wild Fred, while Joseph O’Brien’s Home By The Lee hit the target in Grade Three company last time.
Tom Mullins’ Court Maid is another to note after two impressive chase victories.