Hurricane Fly and Jezki are again on a collision course for the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday.
With the score currently four wins to two in favour of the former, all eyes will be on one of the keenest rivalries in jumps racing.
Hurricane Fly, trained by Willie Mullins, is unbeaten at Leopardstown and will be attempting to surpass the great Istabraq by winning this race a fifth time.
Jezki could only finish fourth 12 months ago but returned to his best at the Cheltenham Festival to win the Champion Hurdle in March.
Mullins has also left in Arctic Fire and Faugheen, though the County Carlow handler is more likely to give the former another chance to impress after he claimed third place behind Hurricane Fly and Jezki in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas.
Plinth and Tiger Roll, both well beaten in the Ryanair, could be back for another go, while Fiscal Focus is also engaged in a seven-strong entry.
Meanwhile Un De Sceaux spearheads a high-class quintet in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase, also at Leopardstown on Sunday.
The Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old, who also holds an entry at Doncaster a day earlier, leapt to the summit of the ante-post betting for the Arkle at Cheltenham in March after a dazzling display at Fairyhouse last month.
Un De Sceaux could be joined from his County Carlow base by Valseur Lido, who looked the real deal en route to an eight-length success in the Drinmore at Fairyhouse in November.
Drinmore runner-up Apache Stronghold could renew rivalry for the Noel Meade operation, having since occupied the same position in the Topaz Novice Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
Gilgamboa is unbeaten in two starts over fences and may run for trainer Enda Bolger and owner JP McManus.
Clarcam has made huge strides since he was beaten by Vautour on his chasing bow and is also in the shake-up.
Vercingetorix is on course for the Gala Retail Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown on February 8.
The Grade One event, used by the ill-fated Our Conor as a stepping stone to Triumph Hurdle glory two years ago, brings the best youngsters in Ireland together before Cheltenham.
It was hard not to be impressed by the former Andre Fabre inmate, who is now in training with Gordon Elliott, when he made a winning hurdling debut at Limerick over Christmas.
He is yet another smart four-year-old owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, who also have current Triumph Hurdle favourite Peace And Co, Bristol De Mai and Top Notch.
“He’ll run in the Grade One on February 8,” said Anthony Bromley, the owners’ racing manager.
“There are very few options in Ireland once you have won, you are almost forced to go straight into Grade Ones.
“After he’s run we’ll see where he fits in with the others. They don’t all have to go to Cheltenham, there’s Aintree and Punchestown, too.
“We’ll know a lot more in the next few weeks.”
Last year’s winner The Giant Bolster is among eight possibles for the BetBright Cup Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday. David Bridgwater’s star beat Rocky Creek by seven lengths in the Grade Two contest, formerly known as the Argento Chase, before going on to finish third in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
His return this season at Wetherby saw him finish last of seven in the Charlie Hall Chase, but he improved from that to run well at Haydock when fifth in a high-class renewal of the Betfair Chase.
Tom Cannon rode the 10-year-old for the first time at Haydock and is set to keep the mount.
Bridgwater said: “His first run at Wetherby was rubbish but his second run at Haydock was brilliant and Tom gave him a lovely ride.
“He is a very promising young jockey and it is the plan for him to ride on Saturday.
“The Giant Bolster will definitely have a visor on. We might put a hood on as well, depending if it’s cold or not, just to keep his ears warm!”
David Pipe is looking to give Dynaste a spin ahead of the Festival following his second place behind Silviniaco Conti in the King George VI Chase.
“He has pleased me at home and has come out of his King George run very well,” the trainer told his website.
“We will be keeping a close eye on the weather and hoping that the temperatures keep up ahead of the weekend’s action.
“Should he participate, the result will give us yet more information on which to base his Cheltenham Festival target.”
Others to feature in a race that was reopened due to insufficient entries are Hennessy Gold Cup hero Many Clouds and Holywell, another leading contender for the Gold Cup in March.
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