Last Updated: 01/12/18 3:56pm
Willie Mullins is double-handed in his bid to secure a record eighth victory in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
It is 20 years since the champion trainer first landed the Grade One prize with Alexander Banquet and it took him another 10 years to double up with the brilliant Hurricane Fly.
However, he has dominated the race in the last decade – scoring with Zaidpour (2010), Sous Les Cieux (2011), Nichols Canyon (2014), Long Dog (2015) and Airlie Beach (2016) – and appears to hold a strong hand once again.
Airlie Beach provided the Supreme Horse Racing Club with its first and only top-level success to date when triumphing two years ago and the successful syndicate – who will be bidding for compensation following Kemboy’s withdrawal from Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury due to travel problems – have another leading contender in Aramon.
The German import has won two of his three starts since arriving in Ireland, most recently running out an impressive winner of the For Auction Novice Hurdle at Navan three weeks ago. Paul Townend keeps the ride.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Aramon won very well in Navan and we’ve been happy with him since.
“He’s a horse that works well at home and we’re expecting a big run from him.”
Back in fourth when strongly fancied for the same Grade Three contest at Navan was Aramon’s stablemate Quick Grabim.
The six-year-old came from a long way back to beaten four and a half lengths and Ruby Walsh keeps the faith.
Mullins added: “Quick Grabim had to carry a penalty in Navan and obviously he doesn’t on Sunday, with it being a Grade One.
“He also made a mistake at the second-last that day, so I think we can draw a line through that and I’d be expecting a much improved performance.”
Gordon Elliott also fires a twin assault, with the exciting Commander Of Fleet his main contender.
The son of Fame And Glory was mightily impressive on his racecourse debut in the Goffs Land Rover Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in the spring and ultimately won comfortably on his hurdling debut at the same track a fortnight ago.
Elliott said: “It’s not ideal having to come back to two miles (from two and a half), but it’s a Grade One and we have to take our chance.
“I think he’s a good horse and he won a Land Rover bumper over two miles.
“It’s not a massive field and he has definitely come on since Punchestown, we’re very happy with him.”
Eddie O’Leary, racing manager for owners Gigginstown House Stud, said: “Commander Of Fleet is coming back in trip and it’s a big ask for the horse as he lacks experience.
“I think it’s a big ask, but hopefully he can run well.”
Elliott and Gigginstown have a second declared runner in Tintangle, who was a narrow winner at Thurles on Thursday.
“We’ve declared Tintangle, but she only won on Thursday so we’ll just have to see how she is,” O’Leary added.
Joseph O’Brien’s Triplicate – who beat Aramon at Listowel in September but was beaten by Quick Grabim at Tipperary on his latest outing – is the fifth and final runner.