Stable companions Min and Yorkhill will lock horns at Leopardstown on Saturday after both were declared for the Coral Dublin Chase.
Min suffered his first defeat over fences when losing a Grade One prize in the Leopardstown stewards’ room over the festive period. The horse promoted to the number one spot, the Nicky Richards-trained Simply Ned, is once again in opposition this weekend.
Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Yorkhill disappointed on his seasonal reappearance in the Leopardstown Christmas Chase over three miles, but is a hot favourite to get back on the winning trail in a two-mile Grade Two formerly run at Punchestown as the Tied Cottage Chase.
Willie Mullins has a third string to his bow in the veteran Ballycasey, while Henry de Bromhead saddles Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Special Tiara, Alisier D’Irlande and Ordinary World.
The inaugural Dublin Racing Festival gets under way with the two-mile-six-furlong Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle and ante-post favourite Samcro has not been declared.
With connections also deciding against an ambitious tilt at the Irish Champion Hurdle, his only remaining engagement this weekend is in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle over two miles on Sunday.
In Samcro’s absence, trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud rely on Dortmund Park, who steps up to Grade One level following victories in lesser company at Fairyhouse and Thurles.
Mullins sends Limerick Grade Two winner Fabulous Saga and Carter McKay into battle.
De Bromhead’s course scorer Dicey O’Reilly, Jessica Harrington’s Jetz, the Noel Meade-trained Moyross and Tower Bridge from Joseph O’Brien’s yard complete the line-up.
Don’t Touch It heads a 20-strong field for the Sandyford Handicap Chase. His rivals include Blast Of Koeman, Tully East and Townshend.
The €100,000 Coral Hurdle is as competitive as ever, with Ben Dundee, Mind’s Eye, Low Sun and Off You Go among those fancied in a huge line-up of 29 runners.
The afternoon comes to a close with the Grade Two Goffs Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H. Flat Race.
Mullins runs a pair of course-and-distance winners in Minella Encore and Blackbow, Elliott saddles Rapid Escape and Empire Burleque, while Noel Meade is represented by Brace Yourself and former Mullins inmate Village Mystic.