Klassical Dream is set to lead Willie Mullins’ assault on the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Saturday.
Winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham and the Champion Novice on this course in the spring, the five-year-old gets his first chance of proving himself against seasoned campaigners.
Paul Townend, who has won the last two runnings of the Morgiana with Sharjah and Faugheen, is looking forward to teaming up with Klassical Dream for just the second time on a racecourse.
“Klassical Dream has to step up to the big league now as he steps out of being a novice last season, but hopefully he can do that,” said Townend, number one rider at Closutton following the retirement of Ruby Walsh.
“He was very impressive on all his starts last season and he seems to be the real deal, but he has to prove that now in against the big boys.”
He will face just a maximum of four rivals following the confirmation stage, including two stablemates.
Sharjah, who upstaged his odds-on stable companion Faugheen 12 months ago, is on course to try for back-to-back victories.
Saldier is the other Mullins’ representative as the Closutton handler bids to win the race for the ninth successive year.
Saldier was a Grade One novice hurdler winner at the Punchestown Festival in 2018, but has been absent since falling at the last when the ill-fated subsequent Champion Hurdle hero Espoir D’Allen went on to score at Naas that November.
Walsh expects all three to line-up.
He told Racing TV: “The plan is to run the three of them, they’re all going really well at home. We couldn’t be happier with Klassical Dream, he’s in really good form.
“It can be difficult for novices when they step into open Grade One company. That’s a bigger jump than people often credit, so Klassical Dream will have to step up.
“That said, with the sad loss of Espoir D’Allen, the Champion Hurdle division probably does look open.”
He added: “You go back 12 months, in the Fishery Lane Hurdle, Saldier fell at the last and he was a couple of lengths in front of Espoir D’Allen, so that form looks rock solid now.
“He’s made a really good recovery and seems to be going well.”
Petit Mouchoir and Yaha Fizz complete the five possibles.