The Carlow rider faces a strong field of 43 rivals in the Alltech-sponsored feature class, but is well armed, with Horseware Bushman - who was denied a run last year by a minor injury - and the 10-year-old Horseware Lukeswell, who proved an impressive replacement when given Watson a stunning 13-penalty winning margin.
The rider, though, admits that next month’s German nations cup will influence his approach with the latter.
“If the rain comes, I think Bushman could have a chance. He’s been first and second in his two runs there and could replicate that level of performance. Lukeswell is the exciting horse, having obliterated the field to win there last year. He has Aachen in a couple of weeks, so I won’t be pushing him too much, but we’ll still be hopeful of a big run.”
The event in the heart of the Blackwater valley is gaining in prestige and Watson rates it highly.
“It is a welcoming event and the atmosphere is increasing every year, which is important for the horses, mentally, with plenty to catch their eye, because that’s what they will get at the bigger events.”
Experience has taught him to be qualify any predictions, but he says he is confident, though he knows the faces a formidable task, with both a strong home and foreign entry.
“There are definitely strong combination over from the UK and the standard in Ireland is increasing all the time. We are becoming very competitive at three-star level, so it will be harder to win this year.
“Chris Burton has a good draw on TS Jamaimo. He’s somebody to watch. Trish Ryan’s horse Dunrath Eclipse is one of the better horses, plus Austin O’Connor [with three entries] is showing well, while Sarah Ennis and Diamond Delux are a good combination with a lot of good placings at three-star level and it would not be a surprise if they clocked up another one.
“In my own head, though, I feel I have the measure of the others. There’s no point in competing otherwise, but reality might prove me wrong.”
The event has seven international classes, with more than 350 horses competing, including almost 100 under the flags of 10 foreign nations. Among the competitors is former world champion Zara Phillips, with two mounts, and world number 10 Nicola Wilson.
* A strong five-man Irish squad was named for the Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show this week by manager Robert Splaine.
The nations cup is important for the obvious reason, plus it is the final round of the Furusiyya Series and a good result will garner one of seven places from Europe Division One in the final in Barcelona in September.
You’d have to wonder, too, is this the squad, or at least the bones of it, that will carry Irish hopes at the European Championships a few weeks later, when the pressure will be on big time to secure qualification for next year’s Olympics?
Bertram Allen is picked with his Paris GCT winner Romanov, but he is a shoo-in for the championships with Molly Malone.
Greg Broderick is another fair bet, having shown that the nine-year-old MHS Going Global has the ability and maturity to handle the test. Darragh Kenny may have lost the ride on Imothep, but he has been impressing with Sans Soucis Z, finishing third in the recent Global Champion Tour class in Portugal, having placed likewise in the grand prix at St Gallen nations cup, while Conor Swail stood out with Grand Cru vd Vijf Eiken in the Irish team that collapsed to finish seventh in the nations cup in Mannheim, Germany, last Saturday.
Cian O’Connor rides the nine-year-old Belgian warmblood stallion Good Luck, who he acquired last November and which he described as a “Ferrari” when winnning a $50,000 class in Florida in the spring.
* Also looking forward to Dublin Horse Show is Capt Michael Kelly. He’s been putting up some good results on the Continent and continued at Balmoral on Wednesday, when winning the Premier Series Grand Prix with Ringwood Glen, providing the fastest of a quartet that ended on four faults.
Aside from his winning ride, he will have Drumiller Lough and Dunganstown Boy for the international classes in Dublin.
* Doping again reared its head this week in dramatic fashion with the revelation that two horses Nino des Buisonnets and Nasa, ridden by Olympic gold medallist Steve Guerdat had tested positive for prohibited substances.
Crucially, though, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) said it was possibly due to poppy seeds contaminating feed.
Samples taken at the nations cup show in La Baule on May 16 showed the presence of codeine, oripavine and the controlled medication morphine in Nino des Buisonnets - winner of the grand prix at the French fixture - while Nasa, third in the derby, failed a test for codeine and morphine, with traces of oripavine also shown, but not at a sufficiently high level for the testing laboratory to declare a positive for the substance.