Samcro and Laurina set to top Punchestown bill
The potential clash of star novice hurdlers Samcro and Laurina has whet the appetite ahead of the Punchestown Festival later this month after the pair headed the Grade One entries for the opening two days.
The Herald Champion Novice Hurdle could be a classic should the Cheltenham Festival winners collide with Willie Mullins' brilliant mare Laurina set to tackle Gordon Elliott's superb Ballymore victor as she takes on her male counterparts for the first time.
That will be one of many sub-plots in the battle for the Irish trainers' championship between the dominant duo with just over €3million up for grabs over the five days (April 24-28) as Mullins looks to overhaul the €550,000 advantage held by Elliott.
Another Tuesday blockbuster is the BoyleSports Champion Chase with the 1-2-3 from Cheltenham's Champion Chase all in the provisional line-up, although reigning kingpin Altior is likely to be rerouted to either Aintree or Sandown by Nicky Henderson.
Third-placed God's Own could make the trip over from England for Tom George but Mullins holds a strong hand with runner-up Min, while the master of Closutton is also represented by eight-time Grade One winner Douvan, a faller at Cheltenham.
Great Field, which returned from a lay-off to win impressively last month, and the mighty Un De Sceaux, which could step back in trip after an 18-length win over 2m4f at Fairyhouse on Monday, could also take their place for the Mullins team.
The Grade One Growise Champion Novice Chase has the unique distinction of featuring four winners from last month's Cheltenham Festival with Coo Star Sivola, Rathvinden, Shattered Love and The Storyteller all entered.
Other leading challengers include Al Boum Photo, winner of the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse on Sunday, and RSA Chase second Monalee.
A great Grade One Coral Punchestown Gold Cup looks in prospect on Wednesday of the Festival with Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos set to tackle Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth Road To Respect.
Trainer Henry de Bromhead said of Balko Des Flos: "I don't think a step up in trip is an issue as he ran very well at Leopardstown over three miles and he won a Galway Plate over two miles six and a half furlongs. He's got Grade One form over three miles so we'll see."