Pleasant Company and Rathvinden give Willie Mullins a strong hand as the champion trainer bids to continue his recent domination of the BetVictor Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse.
Mullins has saddled a record seven previous winners of the recognised Grand National Trial, including five of the the last seven.
Pleasant Company struck gold in the 2017 renewal before finishing ninth in the Grand National at Aintree – but performed far better on Merseyside last April when narrowly denied victory in the world’s most famous steeplechase by Gordon Elliott’s Tiger Roll.
However, the 11-year-old has finished well-beaten on each of his two starts this season – over hurdles at Leopardstown and in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park last month.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “We’re hoping the better ground might suit him better – it was very heavy in Gowran the last day.
“He’s in good form and all roads lead back to Aintree, so hopefully he’ll take a step forward.”
The stable’s first string appears to be Rathvinden.
Mullins junior steered him to victory in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March and he has been off the track since finishing fourth in a Grade One novice chase at Punchestown the following month.
The amateur rider added: “He has been in full work all season, so he’s plenty fit enough.
“The Grand National has been his aim all year and we’d be hoping for a good run this weekend to put him right for Aintree.”
David Mullins keeps the ride on Pleasant Company, with Paul Townend taking over in the saddle on Rathvinden.
Gordon Elliott – who saddled Roi Du Mee to win this prize in 2013 and 2015 – is also doubly represented with Alpha Des Obeaux and Outlander both declared.
Alpha Des Obeaux was last seen finishing second behind the Mullins-trained Invitation Only in the Thyestes Chase, while Outlander was a distant last of four behind Bellshill in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Henry de Bromhead’s Valseur Lido is a third runner for Gigginstown House Stud, while Jessica Harrington is represented by the high-class mare Magic Of Light.
The latter has made her last three competitive appearances in Britain – winning a Listed chase at Newbury and a Grade Two hurdle at Ascot before being narrowly denied a hat-trick in another Listed chase at Huntingdon.
Harrington said: “She’s been in good form all year and three miles and one (furlong) will suit her very well.
“The ground is nice, which she likes, and she’s well in on the ratings – if it was a handicap she would be a lot closer to the horses at the top.
“She’s in good form and we’re very happy with her, so we’ll see what happens.”
Asked whether a tilt at the Grand National could be on the cards, the trainer added: “We’ll see how she goes on Saturday, but we’re certainly considering it.
“She’s in good form this year and might not be next year, so we’ll have a look at it.”
Stephen Mahon’s outsider Champagne Harmony completes the seven-strong field, with Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy the most notable absentee.