Let’s Dance heads Mullins trio
The Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors "50,000 Cheltenham Bonus Stable Staff" Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown promises to be an informative heat with a classy field of nine runners set to go to post.
Whilst Noel Meade and Denis Hogan must depend on Joey Sasa and Jack The Wire respectively, Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry de Bromhead all launch stronger numerical bids.
Mullins has won this Grade Two prize with for the last five years with the likes of Pont Alexandre, Outlander and A Toi Phil and this time launches a three-pronged attack.
Stable jockey Ruby Walsh prefers Let's Dance to Montalbano (Danny Mullins) of the Susannah Ricci-owned pair, while Paul Townend is on board the Supreme Horse Racing Club's Kemboy.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Let's Dance is probably best in at the weights and won very well in Leopardstown at Christmas.
"She's a second-season novice, which is big help and she could be hard to beat.
"Montalbano was good in his maiden hurdle at Christmas and looks a stayer. He needs the experience and this race will tell us a lot about him.
"Kemboy is probably the quickest of the three. He showed a lot of gears to win on his first run for us in Limerick.
"I think the ground will suit him, but on the bare form he probably needs to improve. We'll learn plenty about him as well."
Sire Du Berlais makes his Irish debut for trainer Gordon Elliott and owner JP McManus under Barry Geraghty.
Elliott also fields Blood Crazed Tiger (Jack Kennedy) and the Henry de Bromhead-trained pair of Peace News (Davy Russell) and Monalee (David Mullins) complete the line-up.
All eyes will be on the Mullins-trained Melon in the opening Donohue Marquees Maiden Hurdle.
This Medicean gelding, who has been off the track for 506 days, won one of his four starts on the level in France.
He has been the subject of plenty of positive reports since arriving at Closutton and is a best priced 12-1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle ahead of his jumping introduction under Walsh.
"He did a few nice pieces of work last year, but I think Melon has done a lot more talking than galloping at this stage," the jockey told Racing UK.
"He does go well and is a horse we like, but he has to translate that into form."
Melon will be expected to prove superior to Broken Soul, Prince Charmin' and company in the curtain-raiser on Irish Champion Hurdle day.
Elsewhere, Powersbomb, a faller at the last when shaping as a winner over the course and distance at the Christmas Festival, catches the eye in the Sandyford Handicap Chase.