Fakir D’oudairies and Laurina feature among eight remaining contenders for the Racing Post Novice Chase on the opening day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
Horse Racing Ireland on Wednesday confirmed the entries for the first two days of action over the festive period, with four Grade One events scheduled to be run at Leopardstown and Limerick combined.
The first top-level contest on December 26 throws up a potentially mouthwatering clash between Joseph O’Brien’s Drinmore hero Fakir D’oudairies and the Willie Mullins-trained Laurina, who was an impressive winner on her fencing bow at Gowran Park.
Mullins, who has claimed this prize with the Douvan, Min and Footpad in three of the last four years, also has Cash Back, Royal Rendezvous and Tornado Flyer in the mix.
The other hopefuls are Gordon Elliott’s Samcro, John Queally’s Djingle and the Henry de Bromhead-trained Notebook.
Fakir D’oudairies, Laurina and Samcro also retain the option of the Grade One Matchbook Betting Exchange Novice Chase at Limerick, which is run less than half an hour later.
Other contenders for this two-and-a-half-mile contest include Elliott’s Battleoverdoyen and Champagne Classic and the Mullins-trained Carefully Selected and Faugheen.
The feature event at Leopardstown on December 27 is the Paddy Rewards Club Chase.
The likely hot favourite for this two-mile-one-furlong affair is Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi, who has not been seen in competitive action since slamming Defi Du Seuil at the Punchestown Festival in the spring.
Paul Townend sided with Arkle hero Duc Des Genievres on that occasion, but is looking forward to getting back on board Chacun Pour Soi on Friday week.
“I was mightily impressed by him when he won in Naas (in March) and it would have been hard to get off an Arkle winner in Punchestown to ride him, but I wasn’t at all surprised when he went by me down the straight,” said the champion jockey.
“The ability is there and he is a natural jumper. I suppose he lacks experience, but he didn’t do anything wrong in Punchestown and he is one we are really really looking forward to.
“He is fragile enough and the main thing is to get him there.”
Mullins is responsible for seven of the 14 possible runners, with Cilaos Emery, Footpad and Un De Sceaux among those also left in.
The opposition is headed by the Nicky Richards-trained veteran Simply Ned, who will be bidding to win the race for the third year in succession.
Mullins has claimed the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle in each of the last four seasons, and can this year choose from Elixir D’Ainay, Janidil and Blue Sari.
However, the undoubted star attraction if taking his chance is Elliott’s unbeaten star Envoi Allen. The Cullentra handler also has Abacadabras and Easywork in the reckoning.
The sole British-trained entrant is Jamie Snowden’s Thebannerkingrebel.