Festival winners 'Duc' and 'Tard' set for Fairyhouse duel
ARKLE hero Duc Des Genievres leads eight possible runners for Willie Mullins in Sunday's Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse as he bids to follow in the footsteps of subsequent Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo, which landed the spoils last year.
Duc Des Genievres was a scintillating winner on the opening day of last month's Cheltenham Festival and the six-year-old heads his charge in the €100,000 contest over 2m4f as the three-day Fairyhouse's Easter Festival kicks into gear.
The Closutton maestro accounts for nearly half of the 17 potential runners, with his octet also including runaway Naas winner Chacun Pour Soi, recent Grade Three scorer Burrows Saint, and Grade Two winner Voix Du Reve.
The classy Getabird is also a contender for Mullins with the exciting seven-year-old off the track since a final-fence blunder cost him a Grade One win at Limerick over Christmas.
Gordon Elliott's Hardline took advantage to score on that occasion and the pair could cross swords again with the Meath trainer also represented by Champagne Classic, Cubomania and Mengli Khan.
Henry de Bromhead's A Plus Tard - an effortless winner of the Close Brothers Novices' Chase at Cheltenham - is also set to step out of handicap company having handed Rachael Blackmore her maiden Festival success on his last start.
It could also be a big weekend for Pat Doyle as the Tipperary handler intends to send the exciting Kaiser Black - second in the Grade One Flogas Novice Chase before landing a Grade Three last month - into battle while Aidan Howard's Winter Escape is another intriguing contender.
The other Grade One on Sunday's card is the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle, which has proved a bonanza for Mullins with four of the last six winners.
High-class mares Annie Power (2013) and Laurina (2018) are among the roll of honour for Mullins and he has 10 possibilities, including Festival winner Eglantine Du Seuil and Concertista - separated by a short-head in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle.
Elliott will be hoping that Tintangle (third) and Black Tears (fourth) can show further improvement from their Cheltenham showing while Philip Dempsey will step Caravation - winner of her last two starts - up significantly in class.
The one they may all have to beat, however, is De Bromhead's Honeysuckle. Forced to miss Cheltenham after suffering a small setback, the talented five-year-old is unbeaten in four career starts, including when landing the Grade Three Solerina Hurdle at Fairyhouse in January.
The Waterford handler hasn't held back in his assessment that he thinks the daughter of Sulamani could reach the very top and she heads to the Meath track fresh on what should be a stellar Sunday of jumps action.