Mullins dominates Fairyhouse feature
Willie Mullins fires a four-pronged assault on Sunday's Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
The Closutton handler has won the Grade Two prize with Kempes (2009), Pique Sous (2013), Valseur Lido (2014) and Sempre Medici (2015) in recent years and appears intent on adding to his tally.
Heading this year's team is Bleu Berry, the chosen mount of stable jockey Ruby Walsh.
The six-year-old returned from almost a year off the track with victory here in February and followed up in a Listed event at Naas three weeks ago.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "Bleu Berry seems to have got his act together this season after disappointing last year.
"He won his maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse, so he's got course form, which is always a big plus.
"He knuckled down well to win in Naas the last day and Ruby has gone for him, so we're expecting a big run."
The champion trainer also runs Deloitte Novice Hurdle sixth Chateau Conti (Paul Townend) and the Rich Ricci-owned pair of Montalbano (Danny Mullins) and Riven Light (David Mullins).
"Chateau Conti was a little disappointing in the Deloitte after winning in Cork. He ran a bit keen that day, so hopefully he'll settle better and that will help him improve," Patrick Mullins added.
"Montalbano was also too keen on his last run at Leopardstown behind Let's Dance. That was over two-and-a-half, so coming back to two miles should suit him better.
"Riven Light is a very talented horse, but he needs to brush his jumping."
Mullins' title rival Gordon Elliott is double-handed, with Brelade arguably setting the standard having finished sixth in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The master of Cullentra also saddles runaway Navan scorer Chirico Vallis, one of two runners for JP McManus along with Joseph O'Brien's Outspoken.
The leading owner's retained rider, Barry Geraghty, has sided with Outspoken, who was beaten just a short-head by Bleu Berry at Naas.
Geraghty is back in action for the first time since being forced to miss the Cheltenham Festival through injury.
He said in his At The Races blog: "I am really looking forward to getting back to race-riding at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
"Outspoken stayed on well to win his maiden over two miles at Naas in February, and he returned there three weeks ago, where he was just beaten by Bleu Berry, the pair of them coming nicely clear.
"He stayed well on the Flat, he finished third in the Melrose Handicap at York over a mile and six furlongs two years ago, and he is a three-parts brother to Sadler's Risk, a Munster National winner. However, his four runs over hurdles have been over two miles. He won twice over 10 furlongs on the Flat, and he is not lacking pace.
"He has a little bit to find on ratings with Brelade, and he has to take on Bleu Berry again, but he continues to progress with experience, and hopefully he can progress again."
Noel Meade's Art Of Security and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Avenir D'Une Vie complete the nine-strong field.