Mullins targets Samcro scalp as novice stars eye Naas prize
Next Destination is set to be joined by at least one stablemate in a potentially mouthwatering clash with Samcro as Willie Mullins bids to extend his excellent recent record in the Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle on Sunday.
The champion trainer has claimed this prize five times in the last eight years and Next Destination appears to be his big hope for this year's renewal.
Fourth in last season's Champion Bumper, the six-year-old made an impressive hurdling debut at this venue in November before striking in Grade Two company in the Navan Novice Hurdle.
Carter Mckay and Duc Des Genievres are the other potential Closutton representatives.
Patrick Mullins, assistant to his father, said: "This race has been the plan for Next Destination since before Christmas.
"One or both of Carter Mckay and Duc Des Genievres will also run in the race. We saw at Leopardstown last week, it is never any harm to have back-up in these races.
"Carter Mckay won a bumper at Naas, so his plan is to go as well.
"Duc Des Genievres is a horse we like a lot. He won his maiden hurdle in France in May so is slightly more difficult to place and we'll see how he works during the week before making a definite plan for him."
Samcro is the star name in the 15 entries. Gordon Elliott's point-to-point graduate is unbeaten in five starts under rules, scoring in three bumpers and twice over hurdles, most recently dominating his rivals in the Grade Three 'Monksfield' Novice Hurdle at Navan last month.
He looks set to step up to Grade One level for the first time this weekend as he bids to enhance his claims for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, for which he is currently a best-priced 2/1 favourite.
Elliott has eight possibles for two-and-a-half-mile contest, with the likes of Blow By Blow, Cracking Smart and Royal Bond Novice Hurdle winner Mengli Khan in the mix. The latter ran out in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last week.
Noel Meade's dual winner Moyross and the Joseph O'Brien-trained Speak Easy add further spice to what promises to be a fascinating affair.
Speak Easy won a point-to-point last spring and was a dominant winner on his hurdling bow at Navan last month.
He is also in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, but O'Brien said: "I'm happy with Speak Easy and it is possible he'll go to Naas on Sunday."