Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo give Willie Mullins the ace hand in his bid for a fifth straight victory in the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle.
The Closutton handler has unsurprisingly dominated the opening Grade One of the Punchestown Festival, with Hurricane Fly (2009), Faugheen (2014) and Douvan (2015) among his eight previous winners overall.
Sir Gerhard is the likely favourite this time around after winning the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned seven-year-old drops back in distance on Tuesday, but did win at Grade One level over the minimum trip at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival in February.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Sir Gerhard came out of Cheltenham very, very good. He jumped much better there and we don’t know what got into him at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival – maybe he was just feeling something on the day.
“I thought his performance at Cheltenham could be marked up hugely on account of how keen he was early on. I think he is very versatile and will be very difficult to beat.”
With Paul Townend aboard Sir Gerhard, Mullins junior will get back on board Dysart Dynamo, having steered him to a wide-margin bumper success at this meeting last year.
The Westerner gelding was not done with when falling three flights from the finish in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle six weeks ago and bolted up over this course and distance on his penultimate start.
“For me Punchestown really plays to Dysart Dynamo’s strengths,” Mullins added.
“He has won there twice. He gave me a horrendous time last year – it was like wrestling a bear around!
“I think hurdles help him concentrate a little bit and it should definitely do after Cheltenham, but I think Punchestown is a track that suits his strong running style.”
Gordon Elliott’s Mighty Potter was pulled up when well fancied for the Supreme, but did win in Grade One company on his ultimate run.
Connections will check on underfoot conditions before deciding whether to give him another run.
Joey Logan, racing manager for owners Caldwell Construction Ltd, said: “We’re going to walk the track to make sure we’re happy, but he’s in good form.
“Nothing went right for him in Cheltenham. When he was going down he got loose and when he was jumping the sixth or seventh last hurdle, he overstretched himself and was sore after for a week or 10 days.
“He’s a chaser in the making, so to win a Grade One hurdle with him was a bonus. He’s 17 hands and there’s a lot to look forward to next year after a summer’s grass.”
Elliott’s apparent second string Vina Ardanza and Oliver McKiernan’s outsider Gatsby Grey complete the line-up.