The Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux will be attempting to make it four Grade 1 wins in a row when he faces seven rivals as the headline horse on day one of the Punchestown festival in the Boylesports Champion Chase (5.30).
Successful in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in December, Un De Sceaux followed up in the Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham, where he went on to win the Ryanair Chase at the festival meeting on his most recent start last month.
Victory here would be an eighth top-level success over fences for the Edward O’Connell-owned nine-year-old.
Un De Sceaux has a 100 per cent record at Punchestown, where he won the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase at the festival two years ago having twice won over hurdles at the course earlier in his career.
Mullins is also represented by Ballycasey, winner of the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse on his most recent start this month.
The Tom George-trained God’s Own and Sir Valentino, as well as Colin Tizzard’s impressive Aintree scorer Fox Norton represent a strong British-trained challenge.
The first big Grade One match between Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins takes place in the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle (4.20).
Elliott’s Labaik often refuses to race but was on his best behaviour at Cheltenham last month when he landed the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at 25-1, in which he had Willie Mullins’ Melon comfortably behind him in second.
Despite that comprehensive victory, it is Melon, who displays no such troubles at the start, that is the favourite for today’s race.
The final Grade One of the day is the Growise Champion Novice Chase at 6.40pm.
It was at Punchestown where Disko announced himself as a promising chaser last October and today he bids to sign off on what has been a good campaign for Noel Meade and Gigginstown House Stud.
The powerful owners, who have won three of the past six renewals of this Grade One, also run A Genie In Abottle, Alpha Des Obeaux and A Toi Phil.
The racing begins at 3.40 with the Kildare Hunt Club Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase and last season’s runner-up Enniskillen heads the betting for trainer Peter Maher.
Enda Bolger has done very well in this race the past and despite the poor form his Blue Templar and Equal Status have show to date, the Limerick trainer can never be overlooked at the Punchestown festival.
The ground for the opening day of the festival is good to yielding.