Facile Vega and High Definition are all set to take each other on in a Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle not to be missed at Leopardstown on Sunday.
Already odds-on for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, that price tends to be based more around what Facile Vega achieved in bumpers last season, including a stylish victory in the championship event in March.
He has won both starts over timber to date and the son of six-times Festival winner Quevega will be all the rage for the first race of the big meeting should he win again.
Assistant trainer Patrick Mullins rode him in all his bumpers and said: “I suppose he has his critics but that is probably based on the price he is for the Supreme, I don’t think anyone is knocking the horse for what he’s done.
“I was more impressed than most people at Christmas, more so because of Paul’s (Townend) body language, he didn’t really ask him to race until after the last and that form has worked out, both Ashroe Diamond (third) and Path D’Oroux (fourth) have won since.
“So I think that performance was a lot better than he was given credit for at the time.”
Mullins’ father Willie will also saddle another unbeaten runner in the race in Dark Raven who defied a 631-day absence to make a winning hurdling debut at Leopardstown, form which has subsequently been franked.
“He is a horse who doesn’t show us an awful lot at home but every time he goes to the track he looks a different animal,” said Mullins jnr.
“It’s a big step up in class for him but we think he’s more than worthy of his place in the line up.”
Il Etait Temps, who has four lengths to find with Facile Vega, completes the Mullins trio.
It is far from a Mullins benefit, though, with one-time Derby favourite High Definition, now with Joseph O’Brien, looking to add to his winning hurdling debut.
“We’re looking forward to taking on Facile Vega, hopefully he runs well,” said O’Brien.
“I think he’ll improve from his first run over hurdles, as he’s entitled to. The form has worked out well, it’s a big step up in class but we’re hoping for a good run.
“It’s a big ask going from a maiden straight into a Grade One, but at this time of year it’s kind of what you have to do if you’re going to go to the big Festivals.
“Hopefully he acquits himself well and we’ll have something to look forward to for the spring.”
Gordon Elliott has always thought a lot of Irish Point and he has finished second in two Grade Ones the last twice.
“He probably has gone underneath the radar a little bit, but he is a good horse, so we are looking forward to running him,” he said.
“It’s too early to say whether he will go for the Supreme or Ballymore, but he is entered in everything.”
Henry De Bromhead’s Inthepocket is another defending an unbeaten record having won at Wexford and a Grade Two at Naas.
“The Lawlor’s was coming a bit too quick for my liking as he’d had a hard race at Naas but we’re happy enough to look at two miles as well as he travels well in his races. I think it’s a nice race to run in and we’ll see where we are afterwards,” said De Bromhead.
The Ladbrokes Novice Chase is a rarity in that it is a Grade One with a non-Mullins favourite.
That honour goes to Elliott’s Mighty Potter, who has been very impressive over fences to date and in his career overall bar at Cheltenham in March when everything that could go wrong did.
Joey Logan, racing manager for owners Andrew and Gemma Brown’s Caldwell Construction, said: “He worked on Wednesday and is in top form – Gordon is very happy with him.
“We’re looking forward to running him, it’s exciting to be honest.
“It was always the plan to skip Christmas and keep him fresh. Hopefully it works out for us on Sunday and then we can go on to Cheltenham.
“If everything goes to plan he’ll have a strong chance.”
Mullins runs Adamantly Chosen, Gaillard Du Mesnil, I Am Maximus, James Du Berlais and Kilcruit.