Voix Du Reve and Real Steel give Willie Mullins a strong hand as he bids for successive victories in the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse.
Subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo finally provided the champion trainer with his first victory in this Grade One event 12 months ago and he will have high hopes of doubling his tally in the Easter Sunday feature.
Ruby Walsh keeps the faith in Voix Du Reve, who has failed to complete in his last two starts – most recently unseating Walsh in the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
David Casey, Mullins’ assistant, said: “Voix Du Reve looked to be going well in Cheltenham when he unseated Ruby. Before that he was third behind Le Richebourg in Leopardstown over Christmas and he was upsides in front when he fell at the last in another Grade One the next day.
“He’s got some solid form in the book and we think two and a half will suit him well.”
Voix Du Reve is joined by stablemate Real Steel, who finished sixth in the JLT under Paul Townend, who is on board once more.
“Real Steel made a couple of mistakes at the wrong time in Cheltenham and still ran well enough,” Casey added.
“There are less runners on Sunday, which will probably make things a bit easier for him, and he was in good form going over to Cheltenham.
“There’s probably not a lot between the two of them and you’d hope they’ll both be competitive.”
The highest-rated runner is Gordon Elliott’s Mengli Khan, who was third in the JLT and occupied the same finishing position in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree little over a fortnight ago.
Cubomania gives Elliott a second string to his bow, with Aidan Howard’s stable star Winter Escape completing the field.
Winter Escape completed a hat-trick when beating subsequent Cheltenham hero A Plus Tard at Punchestown in January, but has not been seen in competitive action since finishing fifth in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown the following month.
Howard said: “He seems in very good form and hopefully he’ll run well.
“The race has cut up a bit, but Mengli Khan is holding his form well and Willie’s horse (Voix Du Reve) ran a big race behind Le Richebourg over Christmas, so it’s still a tidy little race.
“It would be a help to us if they got a bit of rain, but they are watering and are saying the ground will be good to yielding, which is fine.”