Willie Mullins launches a four-pronged assault as he bids to continue his dominance of the Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.
The champion trainer has saddled seven of the last 10 winners of Saturday’s Grade One contest, with brilliant mares Annie Power and Benie Des Dieux both landing back-to-back renewals.
This year’s quartet is headed by Concertista, who was a beaten odds-on favourite at the Cheltenham Festival last month when touched off by Black Tears in the Mares’ Hurdle.
Mullins also runs Burning Victory — not seen since winning the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham last year — as well as My Sister Sarah and Stormy Ireland, who returned from a spell with Paul Nicholls to make a successful second debut for the Closutton yard at Fairyhouse over Easter.
Former Mullins inmate Skyace would be a popular winner for trainer Shark Hanlon.
Bought for the bargain-basement price of £600, the six-year-old has since won five races, including a Grade One success — a first for her trainer — at Fairyhouse on her latest appearance.
Another ex-Mullins runner Laurina makes her first start for new connections.
Global Equity (Joseph O’Brien), Minella Melody (Henry de Bromhead) and Politesse (Lorna Fowler) complete the nine-strong field.
Grade One honours are also up for grabs in the following Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, in which Triumph Hurdle hero Quilixios renews rivalry with a couple of Cheltenham foes.
The Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding made a successful first start for De Bromhead, having been moved from Gordon Elliott’s yard, when powering up the famous hill in the Cotswolds last month.
He is taken on again by the Mullins-trained third Haut En Couleurs and Denise Foster’s fourth Zanahiyr.
The first two from the Boodles at Cheltenham are also in the mix — Noel Meade’s Jeff Kidder and Mullins’ Saint Sam.
Jeff Kidder has since continued his progression with a Grade Two success at Fairyhouse.
David Cottin’s Mica Malpic is an intriguing challenger from France, with Druid’s Altar (O’Brien), Palace Rock (Francis Casey) and Zoffanien (Denis Hogan) completing the field.