Diakali can eat into Elliott's lead for Mullins at Tipperary
Willie Mullins could make a dent in Gordon Elliott's lead over him in the trainers' championship by securing the €40,625 Grimes Hurdle winner's prize with Diakali.
Going into last night's meeting at Cork, Elliott was just over €200,000 clear thanks to a whirlwind start to the campaign.
The Meath maestro has two declared for this afternoon's €62,500 Tipperary feature, but Bayan was also pencilled in for duty yesterday evening, so he may swerve this Kevin McManus-sponsored two-miler.
That would leave Bryan Cooper's mount Taglietelle to fly the flag for Elliott. Twice a winner over this trip in the autumn, he progressed well subsequently, finishing a close fourth in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival before winning on his first outing over three miles at Aintree.
Taglietelle will be super-fit from a couple of outings on the Flat, but there is a suspicion now that he needs a little further than he is running over here to show his best.
While Matthew Smith's Rawnaq and Henry De Bromhead's Darwins Fox are other real contenders, Diakali is expected to plunder the lion's share of the spoils.
Mullins also saddles two, with the indomitable 11-year-old Thousand Stars conceding weight all-round on the back of his gallant second in the French Champion Hurdle.
There would certainly be no more popular winner should he prevail for Paul Townend, but his fellow grey Diakali should excel in a race like this.
He hasn't run since finishing a head behind Zarkandar when fourth in the same Auteuil Grade One last year.
Given that Thousand Stars had Zarkandar three lengths behind this time and that he also had Diakali behind in last year's Prix Barka, Diakali has a bit to do. Still, he is a relatively lightly-raced hurdler with scope to improve.
Twice a Grade One winner for Mullins as a novice, he ran consistently well in senior company the season before last and was narrowly denied by The New One and Rock On Ruby in an Aintree Hurdle thriller. Clearly, his 398-day lay-off may not be ideal, but he just might thrive for such a break.
As such, Diakali is fancied as nap material now under Ruby Walsh.
Aidan O'Brien and Barry Geraghty get the nod to take the maiden hurdle with JP McManus' Punchestown bumper winner Kilclispeen, though the Ballydoyle genius is without a runner in the Listed two-year-olds' race.
The sponsors Coolmore instead rely on the David Wachman-trained Independence Day, which is fancied to account for the likes of Promised Money, Shrill and Fit For Function.
Out of the stable's classy mare Damson and a brother to its smart sprinter Requinto, Independence Day impressed when scooting clear over this five-furlong trip on its second run at Down Royal.
He left Wednesday's decent winner Reckless Endeavour five lengths behind at will, so he and Wayne Lordan represent a potent partnership here.
The Galileo newcomer Johannes Vermeer ought to be a big player for O'Brien and Seamie Heffernan in the juveniles' maiden, while Shanghai Beauty could get off the mark for Ken Condon in the five-furlong maiden. This is a poor affair, and Fran Berry's mount was good enough to go close in the Listed race in 2014. If she runs to that level, she's the one to beat.