Willie Mullins fires three strong arrows at Leopardstown’s Matheson Hurdle.
County Hurdle winner and young pretender Saint Roi, the lightly-raced but highly-talented Saldier and the relatively unheralded Sharjah – bidding for a hat-trick in this race, having given Epatante most to do at Cheltenham in March – all present persuasive cases for Mullins on Tuesday.
Saint Roi seeks revenge on Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras following their meeting in the Morgiana Hurdle – when those connected to the JP McManus-owned five-year-old felt he was slightly unfortunate.
Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins, who maintains his partnership on Sharjah, said: “You’d have to think Saint Roi was unlucky in the Morgiana ,and we’d like to think he can turn the tables on Abacadabras.
“Saldier is obviously coming back from a long lay-off, but we’ve got plenty of work into him. He still falls into the ‘could be anything’ category, so I wouldn’t discount him in any way, shape or form.
“Sharjah has won this for the last two years. The Flat campaign didn’t go to plan with him, so we’ve given him a break and freshened him up – and I’m delighted to be riding him again.
“Hopefully we can go for the hat-trick, but it might be difficult.”
As ever Elliott provides stiff opposition with Abacadabras, who pushed Shishkin close at the Cheltenham Festival, looking to build on his Morgiana win.
“Some of the Grade Ones at Leopardstown have attracted some great line-ups, and this is another quality race – it’s far more than just a rematch between Abacadabras and Saint Roi from Punchestown,” Elliott told Betfair.
“I was obviously delighted with Abacadabras at Punchestown, where I thought he did well to win because the race did not go to plan for him.
“He didn’t jump well and found himself in front too soon – but he was still able to win, which is a good sign.
“He is going to switch back to better ground here – which will suit him – and he’s been in very good shape since Punchestown, so I’m expecting a good run.
“I think he is a proper Grade One hurdler at this trip and I think if he runs up to his best he will be right there at the finish.”
Elliott also runs the nine-year-old Petit Mouchoir – winner of the race four years ago -who has his first start for the yard since leaving Henry de Bromhead.
Elliott said: “Petit Mouchoir has been a regular in these races for quite a few seasons.
“We bought him at the sales in the autumn, and he’s been given plenty of time to settle in and acclimatise to the routine here and he looks to be in good shape.
“I do think that he will improve for this run – and he is taking on some top class sorts – so I’d be hoping for a respectable showing, and I know there will be more to come from him following this run.”
De Bromhead is represented by Aspire Tower, who is only four but comfortably beat Abacadabras at Down Royal early in the season.
“He ran really well in Down Royal and he’s a horse with a very exciting future,” said his jockey Rachael Blackmore.
“Things went all wrong for him in Cheltenham last year (in the Triumph), but he still managed to get up the hill in second.
“He’s a great one to have in the yard.”
Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge and Gearoid O’Loughlin’s Coeur Sublime complete the field.