Mullins hoping Makitorix's experience will be the deciding factor
Paddy Power Onside App Novice Hurdle | 2m | Grade 2 | ATR
There can be no debate about the highest-quality running of this Grade 2. It was in 2013.
The winner was Annie Power, winner of the 2016 Champion Hurdle. The third was Don Cossack, winner of the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Sandwiched in between them was Defy Logic, also a Grade 1 winner over fences. Fifth was The Tullow Tank, a two-time Grade 1 winner. Now that is what you call a quality contest.
The chances of this year's race working out so well seem very slim indeed, but it is fiercely competitive.
Annie Power completed a hat-trick for Willie Mullins as Felix Yonger (2012) and Dare To Doubt (2011) were also successful.
Mullins relies upon Makitorix this time, a five-year-old returning to novice company having tackled the Coral Hurdle at Leopardstown on his most recent start. He wasn't disgraced there, finishing a close-up fourth behind Off You Go.
Mullins said: "We were very happy with Makitorix's run in the Coral Hurdle. It was his first run in a handicap and he finished fourth. The experience he gained in such a competitive race should be a big help to him back in novice company. It puts him in with a fighting chance."
Safety in numbers?
There is €46,500 worth of prize-money up for grabs and, given that every last cent could count by the end of the season, it is hardly surprising to see Gordon Elliott run three in an attempt to scoop as much cash as he can for his trainers' title challenge.
Leading the charge is Cartwright, an ex-Sir Mark Prescott stayer on the Flat who showed a sharp turn of foot to land a maiden hurdle on his last visit to Naas by 16 lengths.
Elliott said: "Cartwright will need to improve on what he showed in a maiden hurdle at the track last time but we think he's improved at home. He should run a nice race but it looks very competitive."
Elliott also runs Defi Bleu and Hardline, both owned by Gigginstown but arrive in the race with very different profiles.
Hardline is having his seventh start of the season, while Defi Bleu makes his hurdling debut having won a Navan bumper in taking fashion on his sole start under rules.
Elliott said: "Hardline has enjoyed a really good season and has held his form together well. Defi Bleu is a nice horse, one we like, but he might be one for next year."
Will Discorama prove the ratings right?
Discorama could take a bit of beating as he has the highest rating of those who have acquired a mark.
Paul Nolan's promising five-year-old boasts a rating of 136 and his maiden hurdle success at Fairyhouse was franked earlier this week by the runner-up Blow By Blow, who won a Grade 3 at Thurles on Thursday.
Nolan said: "He's a horse we've always liked and he seems to be progressing nicely. It looks a very competitive race but he should give a good account of himself."
Can Speak Easy do the talking again?
Having made such an encouraging start to his career at Navan when winning a hot maiden hurdle by a wide margin, Speak Easy was unable to confirm that promise when upped in class at this venue last month. Perhaps he deserves another chance to prove himself.
Also in the line-up is the Jessica Harrington-trained Impact Factor, who justified his skimpy price with a workmanlike win in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown last month.
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