Last year’s winner Pairofbrowneyes is one of three runners for Willie Mullins in the Toalsbet Bookmakers Leinster National at Naas on Sunday.
The 100,000 euro handicap was rescheduled to be run at Gowran Park last season and Pairofbrowneyes provided the champion trainer with his third victory in the last 10 runnings on his debut for the yard.
He fell at the fifth fence when favourite for the Irish Grand National on his next start and has been well beaten on each of his two outings this season, in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown and the Thyestes Chase at Gowran.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: “Pairofbrowneyes has been a bit disappointing this season, but I do think he’ll come forward a good bit from his last run and we think he’s still a bit ahead of the handicapper.”
The Closutton maestro also saddles Isleofhopendreams, who was beaten just a head by General Principle when runner-up in the Irish National last April, but has been pulled up on each of his two subsequent starts this term.
The apparent third string is Bellow Mome, who finished down the field in the Thyestes last time.
Mullins junior added: “Isleofhopendreams usually run his race, but probably doesn’t have much in hand over the handicapper at this stage.
“Bellow Mome is interesting. He’s an unexposed type and I thought he ran quite well for a long way in the Thyestes before getting tired.
“He has the right sort of profile for a race like this and could run well.”
Gordon Elliott runs the Gigginstown House Stud-owned trio of Dounikos, Monbeg Notorious and Blow By Blow.
He said: “They are all in great form. Dounikos came out of Punchestown very well and won’t have any trouble coming back to this trip, but he’s got plenty on his plate with top-weight after he went up 9lb for winning in Punchestown.
“Hopefully Monbeg Notorious can bounce back to the form he showed last season, but ideally he would want softer ground to be seen at his best.”
Other contenders in a 15-strong field include Joseph O’Brien’s Vieux Morvan and Wishmoor and the Noel Meade-trained pair of De Name Escapes Me and Killer Miller.
Trainer Pat Doyle is hopeful Kaiser Black will get back on the winning trail in the Naas Directors Plate Novice Chase.
After registering successive handicap wins in the Mayo National at Ballinrobe and the Connacht National at Roscommon in May and June of last year, the eight-year-old stepped up to Grade One level on his return from eight months off the track in the Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown.
Doyle’s charge ran a fantastic race in defeat to fill the runner-up spot behind star mare La Bague Au Roi – having briefly looked like causing an upset – and has his sights lowered for this Grade Three assignment.
Doyle said: “We’ll give it a go. If he runs to his rating he should win.
“He ran a very good race in Leopardstown and he’s been in great form since.
“I just hope they don’t get too much rain as he wouldn’t want heavy ground.
“He’s in great order and we’re looking forward to running him.”
Kaiser Black is one of five runners along with Jessica Harrington’s Jetz, Elliott’s Monatomic and the Mullins-trained pair of Robin Des Foret and Camelia De Cotte.
The latter has won five of her six starts over fences – including successive Graded races at Cork and Thurles – and now takes on the boys.
Patrick Mullins said: “Both horses have been good money-spinners this season.
“Robin Des Foret is having his first run back after a a break, while Camelia De Cotte is on a real roll and is a far superior mare over fences compared to over hurdles.”
Listed honours are up for grabs in the Irish Racing Writers Kingsfurze Novice Hurdle.
Elliott has a strong hand, with recent course and distance winner Chosen Mate joined by stablemates Retribution and Thunder Down Under
Mullins relies on Mister Blue Sky, who has not been seen in competitive action since making a winning hurdling debut at Wexford in October.
Mullins junior said: “Mister Blue Sky is a horse we’re very excited about. His jumping was very slick in Wexford and it’s a shame he had a bit of a setback after that.
“We hoped he’d be going to Cheltenham this week, but that hasn’t happened with the way things have worked out and he goes to Naas instead.
“He’ll probably come on for it, but we’re expecting a big and hopefully we can look at Fairyhouse and Punchestown afterwards.”
Other hopefuls in a field of eight runners include Eddie Harty’s Advantage Point and the Oliver McKiernan-trained Gallant John Joe, who was last seen finishing third in Grade One company at the Dublin Racing Festival.