Un De Sceaux set for showdown with Altior
Un De Sceaux and Altior look set for a tantalising showdown in Saturday's Tingle Creek at Sandown with Willie Mullins expected to confirm the evergreen 10-year-old for the prestigious Grade One.
The Hilly Way Chase at Cork on Sunday afternoon was also on his radar but Mullins suggested at Tuesday night's HRI Awards that Un De Sceaux (5/1) would instead make the trip across the Irish Sea.
The 2016 Tingle Creek winner makes his seasonal debut having capped another extraordinary season with his ninth Grade One success at Punchestown and will line up against Nicky Henderson's champion two-mile chaser Altior (4/6 favourite).
The recent deluges - going is good to soft - should play to Un De Sceaux's strengths with connections keen to make "the race of the season".
"If he goes to Sandown and takes on Altior, it's the race of the season. We'd love to take him on. How Ruby (Walsh) will ride him will be interesting, too - will he drop him in or not?" part-owner Colm O'Connell said.
"The rain is all in our favour, too. It was either the Hilly Way or the Tingle Creek. We won the Hilly Way last year but it would be great to go to Sandown with him. If you were the owner of another horse you might think twice about going.
"Willie will ultimately make the call, but if he goes to Sandown it's a race that will be good for racing. We'll always go where Willie thinks is best, but Sandown would be the choice of the owners. But if he'd run where we'd wanted him to all his career he'd probably have broken down and been retired by now!"
With Alan King's exciting chaser Sceaux Royal (9/2) and Harry Whittington's Saint Calvados (5/1) - which lowered the colours of Mullins's Footpad in Naas last month - also set to take their part, it promises to be another intriguing renewal.
Meanwhile, Mullins's Faugheen and Gordon Elliott's Samcro are both eye-catching entries for Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle over a stamina-sapping three-mile trip on December 22.
The 2015 Champion Hurdle hero Faugheen was turned over by stablemate Sharjah in the Morgiana Hurdle last month over two miles but a step up in trip was always on the agenda after closing out last season with a scintillating display from the front in Punchestown's Stayers' Hurdle.
Samcro's chasing career was delayed to tackle the Champion Hurdle - a race Elliott and owner Michael O'Leary have never won - but the Cullentra handler this week refused to rule out longer distances for this year's Neptune Hurdle winner.
Samcro was no match for reigning Champion Hurdler Buveur D'Air in Saturday's Fighting Fifth and is given the option of stepping up to three miles for the first time since winning his point-to-point at Monksgrange.
Elsewhere, Mullins looks to hold all the aces with Scarpeta flung in at the weights for the Jim Strang & Sons Kilsheelan Hurdle (1.15) at Clonmel today in the hands of Paul Townend.