Willie Mullins shoots three strong arrows at Matheson Hurdle of Leopardstown.
Hurdle County winner and young Saint King contender, little-raced but very talented Saldier and relatively unreported Sharjah – bidding for a hat-trick in this race, having given Epatante the most to go at Cheltenham in March – all present compelling Mullins cases Tuesday.
The Holy King seeks revenge for Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras after they met in the Morgiana Hurdle – when those linked to the five-year-old belonging to JP McManus felt a bit unhappy.
Assistant coach Patrick Mullins, who maintains his partnership on Sharjah, said: “You’d think Saint King was unlucky in the Morgiana, and we’d like to think he can turn the tide on Abacadabras.
“Saldier is obviously coming back from a long layoff, but we’ve got a lot of work to do with him. He still falls under the ‘could be anything’ category, so I wouldn’t rule him out in any way, form or form. .
“Sharjah has won him for the past two years. The Flat campaign didn’t go as planned with him, so we gave him a break and refreshed him – and I’m delighted to be riding him again.
“I hope we can go for the treble, but it could be difficult.”
As always, Elliott offers strong opposition to Abacadabras, who pushed Shishkin close to the Cheltenham Festival, seeking to capitalize on his victory at Morgiana.
“Some of the Grade Ones from Leopardstown drew some great rosters, and this is another quality race – it’s more than just a rematch between Abacadabras and Saint King of Punchestown,” Elliott told Betfair.
“I was obviously delighted with Abacadabras at Punchestown, where I thought he had done well to win because the race did not go as planned for him.
“He didn’t jump well and ended up in front too soon – but he was able to win anyway, which is a good sign.
“He’s going to come back to better ground here – which will suit him – and he’s been in really good shape since Punchestown, so I expect a good race.
“I think he’s a real level 1 hurdle on this trip and I think if he does his best he’ll be right there at the finish.”
Elliott also runs the nine-year-old Little Mouchoir – a race winner four years ago – which has his first start for the yard since leaving Henry de Bromhead.
Elliott said: “Petit Mouchoir has been a regular at these races for several seasons.
“We bought him at the fall sales, and he’s had a lot of time to settle in and get acclimated to the routine here and he looks to be in good shape.
“I think he’s going to improve for this race – and he’s facing some top categories – so I’m hoping for a respectable performance, and I know there will be more to come from him after this race.”
De Bromhead is represented by Aspire Tower, who is only four years old but comfortably beat Abacadabras at Down Royal at the start of the season.
“He ran really well at Down Royal and he’s a horse with a very exciting future,” said his jockey Rachael Blackmore.
“Things turned out badly for him at Cheltenham last year (in the Triumph), but he still made it up the hill in second.
“It’s a great to have in the backyard.”
Noel Meade’s Beacon Edge and Gearoid O’Loughlin’s Heart Sublime complete the pitch.