Dounikos bids to give weight and a beating to six talented opponents in the Total Event Rental (Kildare) Novice Chase at Punchestown on Saturday.
Gordon Elliott’s charge was a surprise winner on his chasing debut at Gowran in late November, but proved it was no fluke with a Grade Two success at Limerick over Christmas.
There may have been a touch of fortune about the victory, with the race still in the balance when odds-on favourite Al Boum Photo crashed out at the final fence, but the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding nevertheless holds strong claims in this Grade Three contest – despite having to concede 9lb all round.
Elliott and Gigginstown are also represented by Mossback, who has not been seen since winning on his fencing bow at Naas in November.
Gigginstown manager Eddie O’Leary said: ” Dounikos was a good winner in Limerick and he’s a nice horse.
“Mossback is a nice horse as well. He was due to run over Christmas but scoped badly, so hopefully he’s all right now.”
Elliott has a third string to his bow in impressive Fairyhouse scorer The Storyteller, while his great rival Willie Mullins is also-triple handed.
Mullins saddles Arbre De Vie , who was third behind Dounikos at Limerick, as well as Invitation Only and Koshari, who won at Navan and Thurles respectively last time out.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Invitation Only is a horse we’ve always loved.
“He won a point-to-point and two bumpers and didn’t fulfil his potential over hurdles, although his run behind Death Duty and Monalee in the Navan Novice Hurdle wasn’t as bad as we thought at the time.
“He looks like a chaser and was impressive in Navan, so we’re hoping for a big run.
“Koshari is an exciting horse as well. He had some time off but was very good in Thurles and, like everyone else, we’ll be a lot wiser after the race.
“Arbre De Vie has a lot of experience and is capable of picking up some good prize-money.”
Pat Kelly’s 2016 Pertemps Final winner Mall Dini completes the field.