Cheltenham Festival heroine Eglantine Du Seuil leads a seven-strong Willie Mullins team into battle in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The champion trainer has claimed this Grade One prize four times in the last six years, with Annie Power (2013) and Laurina (2018) among those on the roll of honour.
Eglantine Du Seuil ensured Mullins landed the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham for the fourth time in as many years last month when springing a 50-1 surprise under Noel Fehily – who swiftly announced his impending retirement from the saddle.
Ruby Walsh gets back on board the five-year-old this weekend and a bold bid is anticipated.
David Casey, Mullins’ assistant, said: “Ruby has gone for Eglantine Du Seuil. She was good in Cheltenham and it was probably a bit of a surprise to see her win there.
“We think she’s definitely improved since then and we’re looking forward to running her.”
Eglantine Du Seuil is joined by six stable companions in Buildmeupbuttercup (Denis O’Regan), Calie Du Mesnil (Bryan Cooper), Elfile (Jonathan Burke), Robin De Carlow (JJ Slevin), Salsaretta (Paul Townend) and Sancta Simona (Mark Walsh).
Casey added: “Robin De Carlow has done plenty of winning and will like the ground and coming back in trip should suit Salsaretta – she was just too keen over three miles in the Albert Bartlett in Cheltenham.
“Elfile is another I’d give a bit of a chance to. She wasn’t far behind Eglantine Du Seuil in Cheltenham (finished sixth) and the step up in trip will really suit her, so she could surprise a few people.”
Perhaps the one to beat is Henry de Bromhead’s Honeysuckle.
The daughter of Sulamani is unbeaten in four starts – including a point-to-point – and completed her hat-trick over hurdles with a dominant Grade Three success at Fairyhouse in January.
She was forced to miss an intended trip to Cheltenham after suffering a setback, but will head into the spring a fresh horse as a result.
The sole British-trained runner in a 17-strong field is Annie Mc – trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by his son, Jonjo jnr.
The five-year-old has won twice this season in the colours of the Coral Champions Club, most recently dominating her rivals in a Newbury handicap.
Other contenders include Philip Dempsey’s Caravation and Gordon Elliott’s pair of Black Tears and Tintangle.