With Defi Du Seuil enjoying his summer holidays, Mega Fortune and Bapaume get the chance to settle their season-long argument in the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday.
Willie Mullins’ Bapaume came out on top when the pair met at Christmas in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown.
The show moved back to Leopardstown in February for the Grade One Spring Juvenile Hurdle where, on better ground, Gordon Elliott’s Mega Fortune turned the tables in no uncertain terms.
It was then on to the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham where, while no match for Defi Du Seuil, Mega Fortune finished second, with Bapaume a short head away in third.
And in a week when Elliott and Mullins have been going at it hammer and tongs throughout, this race more than any other sums up their battle.
Elliott said of Mega Fortune: “I was very happy with him at Cheltenham, he just bumped into a better one on the day.
“I think he’s fine on better ground, but could be an awful lot more effective on softer ground.
“It would be a worry that Punchestown might not suit him as well as at Cheltenham given how well he stays, but we’ll make plenty use of him.”
Elliott also runs Dinaria Des Obeaux, but she looks up against it having finished only fourth behind Project Bluebook at Fairyhouse recently.
Mullins admits he expected a bit more from Bapaume in the Triumph Hurdle.
He said: “I thought he might run a little bit better than he did at Cheltenham, but he ran a good race.
“Hopefully he can find some improvement.”
The Closutton-based trainer also saddles Meri Devie and Dandy Mag, second behind Project Bluebook at Fairyhouse.
Meri Devie created a big impression when winning on her hurdling debut at Leopardstown, beating the smart Flat recruit Housesofparliament.
She was no back number on the level herself, finishing just over four lengths behind Jemayel in the Prix Saint-Alary, and Mullins felt she did not run to the best of her ability when fourth to Mega Fortune in February.
Meri Devie arrives at Punchestown fresh, having missed Cheltenham with a minor setback.
Joseph O’Brien runs Landofhopeandglory, fifth in the Triumph Hurdle, with the field completed by Michael Mulvany’s On The Go Again.